Posted on Monday, November 21, 2011

Improve Memory with a Hearing Aid

A woman stands under a blue sky, holding out her arms, taking joy in freedom from hearing loss.

Hearing aids have been shown to improve mood, income, and health. Now studies indicate they may also play a role in how the brain functions.

We’ve all heard the cliché, “Listening is a skill” and now two studies confirm the important connection between hearing and brain function. The first study suggests listening requires enough brainpower that a deficit in hearing can actually cause parts of the brain to atrophy. The study, conducted by Jonathan Peelle and funded by the National Institute on Hearing, showed that hearing loss and the resulting lack of stimulation tended to cause reduction in gray matter. This startling report suggests preserving hearing may be as important as correcting hearing loss in keeping the brain healthy. As Dr. Peelle points out, “I think it’s safe to say that as far as the brain is concerned, there’s no such thing as “mild” hearing loss.”

“Even subtle changes in hearing appear to have an impact on the brain.” Dr. Jonathan Peelle

A separate study conducted by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging seems to confirm that hearing loss affects brain function. This study, as reported in an online article at Johns Hopkins, examined hearing loss and dementia and found that people with, “…mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold, respectively, the risk of developing dementia over time. The more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing the memory-robbing disease.” Both studies suggest that protecting hearing and correcting hearing loss can help to keep the brain functioning at higher levels.

“Our brains have to work with whatever the ears pass along. If someone has poorer hearing, the quality of this information won’t be as good, and that is going to impact how our brains deal with it.” Jonathan Peelle

The benefit of such studies is that it gives people the final push needed to protect hearing by being wary of loud music and getting regular checkups. It also provides motivation for those who are already experiencing hearing loss, even mild hearing loss, to get the care they need. As Dr. Peelle so eloquently put it, “…getting a properly fitted hearing aid sooner is going to be a bigger benefit compared to later on.” So turn down the iPod, wear earplugs in extreme noise areas, and call your audiologists, your brain will remember you for it.

If you'd like to learn more, see 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!


University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (2011, August 30). Mild hearing loss linked to brain atrophy in older adults; Early intervention could prevent slide toward speech comprehension difficulties. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110831115946.htm

Archives of Neurology, Feb 2011; 68: 214 - 220.Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD; E. Jeffrey Metter, MD; Richard J. O’Brien, MD, PhD; Susan M. Resnick, PhD; Alan B. Zonderman, PhD; Luigi Ferrucci, MD, PhD
Arch Neurol. 2011;68(2):214-220. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2010.362

Special thanks to expert contributor Jonathan Peelle, researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Neurology.

©2011. American Hearing Aid Associates 225 Wilmington - West Chester Pike, Suite 300 Chadds Ford, PA 19317888.575.2511
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