Did you know that your brain health is connected to hearing loss?
Some aspects of your health, like hearing, can be easier to ignore or procrastinate but they may play an important role in the overall function of your brain. Read more to learn how these two are connected and what you can do to help keep your brain healthy.
The Broader Impact of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss doesn’t just lead to difficulty hearing. It has broader implications for the individual’s social and mental health.
Isolation and Depression
Hearing loss can lead to social isolation and create feelings of loneliness.
If your loved one has hearing difficulties, they might be anxious about participating in sociable environments like church services or family dinners due to background noise and multiple talkers. This anxiety might lead them to avoid those situations altogether. They will, instead, stop going to these events which takes away something that they would otherwise enjoy, further isolating themselves from their loved ones and others because they are missing out on life’s many little and big moments.
Such isolation and resulting depression can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Therefore, it’s crucial to engage in social activities that bring joy and challenge such as dancing, board games, crafts, and music.
The brain and ears work together as a system. When someone is struggling to hear in an environment due to hearing loss it takes much more effort for them to listen. They may have to strain to hear the speaker, lean in, ask people to repeat, or try to fill in the missing pieces of speech that they aren’t hearing. All of this effort to hear is proven to provide less understanding and memory altogether. Imagine being in an important meeting with multiple talkers while also struggling to hear. At the end of that meeting, you may feel exhausted and left with little comprehension of what was said. Having hearing loss increases the “cognitive load” or work the brain must do to be involved.
Another theory being researched is that our brains naturally shrink as we age and hearing loss could be a contributing factor. If areas of our brain linked to hearing aren’t stimulated, they might reduce in size because they’re not needed for those functions. Active use of hearing aids could potentially restore the brain to its original size and purpose.
Commonly Asked Questions About Hearing Loss and Brain Health
Can hearing loss cause brain fog?
Absolutely, hearing loss can contribute to a condition often referred to as “brain fog.” Brain fog is a type of cognitive impairment that seems to occur in individuals with untreated hearing loss. The symptoms include feelings of confusion and diminished mental energy, severely impacting one’s ability to be productive.
Is hearing loss a neurological problem?
It’s a common misconception that hearing is solely an ear-related issue. The reality is that hearing, listening, and understanding rely heavily on the brain.
Proper hearing care should also be a top priority, including a healthy lifestyle, enough sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, and taking care of one’s body as it ages.
Does loss of hearing affect cognitive ability?
Untreated hearing loss in adults can lead to cognitive challenges, including dementia and other declines in mental function. This isn’t a certainty, but ongoing studies at institutions like Johns Hopkins University are seeking to unravel this connection. Adults with hearing loss that is untreated (ie hearing aids or other forms of amplification) are more likely to develop cognitive issues, such as dementia and other cognitive declines. This is not to say that it is certain that this population will develop these issues with certainty.
As families supporting those with hearing loss, remember that you are not alone. At The Hearing Place, we combine state-of-the-art technology with a personal touch, providing comprehensive solutions to help your loved ones lead an improved quality of life. With The Hearing Place, better hearing and, by extension, a better life is always within reach.