Hearing Loss and Brain Tissue Loss
While it has been previously documented that the brain will decrease in size as you age, researchers have recently found that the rate of brain shrinkage will increase in older adults with hearing loss. These findings are also related to other health concerns that have been correlated with hearing loss such as diminished overall mental and physical health, increased risk of falls, hospitalizations and dementia.
Recent longitudinal research from Johns Hopkins tracked brain changes in patients over the course of 10 years. Researchers found that participants who had hearing loss at the beginning of the study had accelerated rates of brain atrophy in comparison to those who had normal hearing. The participants who began the study with hearing loss were found each year to have lost more than an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue in comparison to those participants with normal hearing. The participants with hearing loss were also found to have a significant increase in shrinkage in certain brain regions, especially those associated with processing speech and sounds.
Researchers found that brain structures responsible for speech and sound were affected, which might be a result of auditory deprivation, or a lack of stimulation. These findings provide even more reasons for treating hearing loss sooner rather than later. It would be most beneficial to treat hearing loss before any structural changes in the brain occur. Annual audiological evaluations and fitting of amplifications as necessary are the best methods for treating hearing loss.
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