Researchers have long suspected a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline and dementia. But how does an inability to hear affect your thinking and memory skills?
How Your Ears and Brain Work Together
Your ears collect audio, but your brain does the “hearing.” The outer and middle portions of your ear funnel sound waves through your tympanic membrane, converting them into vibrations. Those vibrations are changed into electrical signals in your inner ear and sent to your brain for interpretation.
Hearing loss prevents your brain from receiving the auditory stimulation it needs to stay active. Your auditory cortex can shrink and atrophy without the electrical signals from your auditory nerve. That requires your brain to put forth more effort to try and understand sounds on limited input.
Improving Your Memory
Your brain will pull resources from other cortexes when it has to work harder to hear. You may find yourself feeling mentally fatigued after conversations, especially if you’re trying to listen in a noisy environment.
Your brain will use more energy to interpret the auditory stimuli, leaving fewer resources for memory formation and retention. That might affect your capacity to create and store short-term memories.
Hearing loss treatment helps you optimize your current hearing ability. Hearing aids amplify and clarify sounds, so your brain doesn’t have to do all the work. That reduces your cognitive load, freeing up your mental energy to form and recall memories.
Reducing Social Withdrawal
It’s not unusual to experience social withdrawal if you live with untreated hearing loss. You may feel intimidated by the idea of interacting with others because you don’t want to miss out on conversations or ask others to repeat themselves.
That could cause you to avoid social gatherings altogether, resulting in isolation and depression. Losing your ability to interact with others can negatively impact your mental well-being and increase your risk of dementia. It’s important to stay socially active as you age as it provides your brain with the stimulation it needs to stay healthy.
Addressing your hearing loss reduces the likelihood of social isolation. When you hear better, you’re more likely to engage with loved ones in person or over the phone. Doing so allows you to exercise your communication skills and cultivate meaningful relationships with others.
Start Your Journey Toward Better Hearing
Your cognitive capabilities and hearing health are closely linked, which is why hearing loss treatment is essential to quality of life. Schedule a hearing test if you notice signs of hearing loss such as muffled speech, trouble understanding women and children, asking others to repeat themselves or turning up the volume on your TV regularly.
The expert audiologists at Hearing Associates are trained to assess your type and degree of hearing loss to provide a personalized care plan. That could include wearing hearing aids to make it easier to interpret your listening environment.
Come to Hearing Associates if you’re looking for audiology services in northern Iowa or southern Minnesota. Our team is ready to help you get started.