Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2015

Any Degree of Hearing Loss Changes the Brain

colorful brain through translucent skull

Studies have shown a correlation between hearing loss and dementia and Alzheimer's. The reasons for this may be related to changes in the brain. A new study has shown that even with mild hearing loss, the brain reorganizes itself to compensate.

A new study indicates that even with mild hearing loss the brain reorganizes itself to devote resources to other areas. The brain's reorganization seems to focus on other senses or more exactly areas of the brain responsible for these senses. According to a recent article on Science Daily, "Researchers at the University of Colorado suggest that the portion of the brain devoted to hearing can become reorganized -- reassigned to other functions -- even with early-stage hearing loss, and may play a role in cognitive decline."

Hearing loss is extremely common. It is common not only as people age, but is becoming more common in younger people with the advancement of listening technologies like earbuds. Unfortunately, the awareness of basic hearing health has not kept pace with the increase in hearing loss. Many parents and adults rely on their family physician to test their hearing, not realizing the sophisticated hearing technology needed to accurately determine loss of hearing. Diagnoses of mild hearing loss in particular can be more readily identified by a hearing health professional using advanced diagnostic tools.

Now that another study has proven the worth of hearing, perhaps health care providers and insurance companies will begin to support hearing health as a matter of primary concern. Anu Sharma, of the Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science at University of Colorado was quoted on Science Daily as saying, "Given that even small degrees of hearing loss can cause secondary changes in the brain, hearing screenings for adults and intervention in the form of hearing aids should be considered much earlier to protect against reorganization of the brain."

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Acoustical Society of America (ASA). "How does the brain respond to hearing loss?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150519104604.htm (accessed June 18, 2015).

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