As we age, it becomes important to do the The Philadelphia Inquirer crossword puzzle to keep our brains active and stave off cognitive decline. For people with hearing loss, it’s especially essential, as they are at an even higher risk of developing dementia. Fortunately, recent research shows that hearing aids stimulate brain activity to keep you mentally sharp.
We Hear with Our Brains
We all know that we need healthy ears in order to hear, but the process of making meaning of sound happens in the brain. Soundwaves pass from the outer to the middle and inner ears where they stimulate tiny hair cells called stereocilia. These cells convert the soundwaves into electrical energy that passes via the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex within the brain to be processed.
When you have hearing loss, your brain receives less auditory input. As a result, the neural pathways that once transmitted electric signals become inactive. Your brain then has to work extra hard to fill in the gaps and make meaning of the few sounds that it is receiving, which creates a taxing cognitive load.
Hearing Loss Is Linked to Cognitive Decline
Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that older adults with hearing loss are at significantly greater risk of developing hearing loss than those without. Results of the study showed that those with mild hearing loss have double the risk of developing dementia, those with moderate loss have three times the risk, and those with severe loss have five times the risk.
It’s unclear exactly what the nature of this link is, but researchers have a couple theories. One hypothesis is that there may be a common pathology that underlies both hearing loss and dementia. Another theory is that hearing loss leads to social isolation, a well-known risk factor for dementia.
How Hearing Aids Help
A study published in 2019 from the University of Exeter found that people who wear hearing aids for age-related hearing loss maintain better brain function than those who don’t. The study involved 25,000 participants; one group wore hearing aids while the other did not, and both groups underwent cognitive tests over two years.
The group who wore hearing aids performed better in terms of working memory and attention. They also had faster reaction times.
According to lead study author Anne Corbett, “Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid, and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain.”
For more information about the benefits of hearing aids or to schedule an appointment, call Pinnacle ENT Associates today.