Hearing loss is one of the leading chronic health conditions among adults, and the most common type of hearing loss is age-related hearing loss (ARHL) – a slow but steady loss of hearing. As ARHL is a slow process, many people who experience it find ways to adapt to the loss.
But a recent study by scientists at the University of Colorado in the US, and highlighted in the Hearing Review, may make you think again about leaving it too long to seek help.
How does the brain respond to hearing loss?
The Colorado study shows that untreated hearing loss, even a mild case, may lead to an impairment, or cognitive deficit, in how your brain acquires and processes information. Using neuroimaging, the study looked at how the brains of people over 60 years old with early stage, mild-to-moderate ARHL responded when they were exposed to various stimuli. The brain responses of people of the same age with normal hearing were also studied.
The neuroimaging scans of the ARHL group showed that, in addition to the usual parts of the brain that should respond to the stimuli, a number of other brain areas activated. The brains of the people in this group had adapted in significant ways to the hearing loss. Notably, this included responses in the frontal cortex, possibly reflecting increased effort. The ARHL group exhibited poorer cognitive function across all areas studied.
Hearing aids are good for your brain
The ARHL group were then fitted with hearing aids which they wore for six months before undertaking the neuroimaging tests again. The new scans showed the number of parts of the brain being used had reduced – brain function had reversed. There were also notable improvements in cognitive function and speech perception.
These results suggest that using well-fitted hearing aids can lead to significant improvements in brain function in a matter of months.
If you feel that your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, don’t leave it any longer to have a hearing test. At The Hearing Clinic, we’re running Covid-safe appointments, so call our expert team at The Hearing Clinic on 01923 372101 (Radlett) or 01462 506074 (Hitchin) to book your hearing test. Or click here to fill in our contact form.