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Posted on Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Three Ways Hearing Aids Help Your Brain

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Hearing and the brain are tied together. Your brain identifies and decodes sounds, determines distance, and helps your ears focus on particular sounds. But as much as your brain helps you hear, your ears can help your brain too. For the person with average hearing this is automatic, but for the person with hearing loss this symbiotic relationship can be disrupted. There's good news. Using hearing aids to compensate for decreases in hearing helps support the hearing-brain relationship.

Reduces Fatigue: A person without hearing loss doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about hearing. For this person hearing doesn't require focused concentration. But for someone with untreated hearing loss straining to hear requires a lot of thought and energy. Your brain typically uses 20% of the calories you consume daily. But when certain regions of the brain--like those associated with hearing--are activated, "local capillaries dilate to deliver more blood than usual, along with extra glucose and oxygen."

In other words, when you are putting a lot of thought into listening, you require more energy and that's why you can tire more easily. Turns out "brain drain" is a real thing. Using hearing aids to compensate for hearing loss, relieves your brain of this added burden, requiring less calories, less strain, and resulting in less daily exhaustion.

Frees Your Mind: If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night thinking you've heard something, you know what it feels like to "cast out" your hearing to try and locate the source of a sound. Knowing where a sound is coming from, being able to pinpoint its location, is something that your brain does automatically. When you have hearing loss it's not always automatic. And, sad to say, your brain's fumbling attempt to locate a sound diminishes your ability to focus on other areas. That's because your brain only has so much working memory. So if you're using your brain in discerning where a sound is coming from, you are diverting it from other areas. To make this more clear, think of a driver on a cell phone or what people call a "distracted driver." This person is concentrating on the call and automatically giving less attention to the road. When a person with hearing loss uses hearing aids, they are helping their brain to know where sounds are coming from and thus free up attention or working memory.

Preserves Gray Matter: Not too long ago, scientist discovered that a decrease in the ability to hear resulted in atrophy in auditory parts of the brain AKA those parts of the brain used to hear. This reduction in gray matter was alarming. Question soon arose. Would returning hearing or compensating for hearing loss with hearing aids help preserve or reverse this atrophy? Recently, we've gotten some positive answers on that front. In this study, almost 4000 people were followed for over 25 years. And people with hearing loss who used hearing aids were no more likely to suffer cognitive decline than a person with no hearing loss. More importantly, those in the study who had hearing loss and didn't use hearing aids were shown to have significant decline in cognitive function.

If you'd like to learn more about using hearing aids to keep your brain healthy speak with your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

Resources

Ferris Jabr "Does Thinking Really Hard Burn More Calories?" Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/thinking-hard-calories/ taken on February 9, 2016

Brent Edwards "Cognitive Function and the Patient Landscape" The Hearing Review http://www.hearingreview.com/2015/08/cognitive-function-patient-landscape/ taken on February 9 2016

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