June: Brain + Hearing Health

Brain + Hearing Health In honor of: alzheimer's & brain awareness month June 2022 Blue and purple brain map photo

Brain & Hearing Health

By Tyler P. Ellis, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA, CH-TM

Doctor of Audiology | Board Certified in Tinnitus Management

Your brain is the main control center for your body; it takes input from all of your senses and makes rapid decisions about how to keep you safely engaged with your environment. There is an ever-growing body of research uncovering the impacts of sensory loss on overall brain function. At NWH+T, we take a special interest in understanding, managing, and preventing the effects of hearing loss on your brain.

Most research on hearing loss and brain function observe differences among three groups: (1) people with normal hearing; (2) people who use hearing aids; (3) people with untreated hearing loss. Abundant evidence supports the notion that people with untreated hearing loss exert significantly more mental effort than people with normal or treated hearing, simply to identify sounds and understand the conversation. The presence of any distracting noise complicates things further for people with untreated hearing loss.

“All of that hard work to make out what someone is saying siphons brainpower away from other important mental faculties, resulting in slower or less efficient processing.”

The impact of this slower processing varies from person to person. For example, somebody who spends more energy trying to understand a conversation may contribute fewer of their own ideas, or may have trouble recalling details of the conversation later.

These effects may lead to gradual changes in social behavior: people with untreated hearing loss may become hyper-aware of their difficulties, and self-conscious of other people’s perception of their struggles. As a result, they may begin to withdraw from social engagements. As we are learning, both social withdrawal and hearing loss are risk factors for declining cognition (e.g., dementia).

Hearing is an important factor in your health and wellbeing and contributes greatly to your overall quality of life. In most cases, hearing loss is gradual, and far too many people go years without realizing they have clinically significant treatable hearing loss.

With hearing loss affecting 1 in 3 adults over 65 years of age, and half of the adults over 75, it is strongly recommended that ALL individuals over 50 visit a licensed audiologist to complete a baseline hearing evaluation. Regardless of age, anybody with noticeable hearing symptoms (including ringing in the ears), should pay a visit to an audiologist. Early identification of hearing loss lends itself to early intervention and prevention of the effects of untreated hearing loss. If you or your loved one struggles to hear, experiences ringing, buzzing, hissing, or fullness of the ears, or in any way identifies with the signs or scenarios described above, please give our office a call or visit our website to schedule your hearing assessment and consultation.