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How Hearing Loss Can Lead to Brain Atrophy

Smiling older couple sitting on couch reading a book together

Brain atrophy is a normal part of the aging process.

Accelerated brain atrophy due to hearing loss is not normal. Fortunately, it can likely be minimized by addressing your hearing loss as you age.

Accelerated Loss of Brain Tissue

A study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging discovered that the loss of brain tissue appears to be accelerated in people with hearing loss. This finding is in addition to previous research showing a link between hearing loss and increased risks of dementia, falls, hospital visits and decreased physical and mental health.

In the 10-year study conducted by Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., researchers found a connection between hearing loss and brain atrophy of the 126 participants. Those individuals with hearing loss experienced the loss of more than an extra cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year, the study found.

Lin said evidence shows that treating the hearing impairment as soon as possible is best.

“If you want to address hearing loss well, you want to do it sooner rather than later,” he said in a Johns Hopkins news release. “If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we’re seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place.”

Gray Area on Cognitive Decline

Another study from the University of Pennsylvania found hearing declines may accelerate gray matter atrophy in brains. Further, this hearing deficit makes the brain work harder to comprehend speech and display signs of cognitive decline.

The research showed that those with hearing impairment displayed less brain activity on MRI scans when presented with complex sentences. These participants possessed less gray matter in the auditory cortex, suggesting areas of the brain used for auditory processing have accelerated atrophy with affected by hearing loss.

Slow The Accelerated Losses

The primary way to make sure you address your hearing loss properly to stave off cognitive decline and brain atrophy is to get your hearing tested regularly with a hearing professional. You can request an appointment with an audiologist at one of the Hearing Associates locations in Mason City and surrounding areas in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

Hearing aid technology may also help those with hearing loss lessen brain atrophy and cognitive decline. Schedule an appointment with a Hearing Associates audiologist to see if our hearing aid services may benefit you.