It turns out that age related hearing loss isn't just in your ears. Although in the past, researchers blamed hearing loss solely on damage within the inner ear, they now say problems with age related hearing also happens within the brain. Researchers at the University of Zurich have shown that as people age, the auditory cortex things and the brain has to work harder to decode certain sounds. This happens in older people with and without hearing loss. But there's good news for the brains of people who use hearing aids.
A two-year study involving older and younger people with and without hearing loss has shown that older people have a harder time distinguishing between certain sounds like asha and afa. This happens in older people with and without hearing loss. Older people put forth more effort, measured by electrodes on the scalp, than people who are younger. Not surprisingly, older people with hearing loss put forth the most effort in discerning the difference in sounds. Scientist says this happens in older people because the auditory cortex thins with age, and that this study actually helps to redefine age-related hearing loss.
There is good news for people with hearing loss who use hearing aids as the study looked at whether or not the brain could relearn the ability to discern sounds. According to Nathalie Giroud researcher at the University of Zurich, “We wanted to know how the brain is able to process speech in old age and also how it is able to re-learn this ability, especially when the person has been affected by hearing loss and wears hearing aids.”
They discovered that although it can take eleven to twelve weeks, people who use hearing aids every day for a full day (12hours) do indeed improve their brain's ability to act like a younger brain and process speech using less energy. How much improvement wasn't described in the article, but it has also been shown that people with and without hearing loss who "train" their brains--people such as musicians--can also discern these subtle differences in sound.
“We know that musicians have certain perceptual advantages over non-musicians, such as better auditory attention, memory, and listening skills.” Dr. Nina Kraus.
So getting a hearing aid and taking up an instrument are two important ways you can exercise your brain! Not interested in learning to play music? No worries, you can help train your brain by using games!
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!
If you'd like more information