Latest posts by Dr. Li-Korotky (see all)
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Is your hearing not as sharp as it once was? Maybe you only miss the odd word here and there, or struggle a bit to follow conversations in places with a lot of background noise. While this might not seem like a big deal right now, researchers have found that taking care of your hearing and vision can slow cognitive decline by 50 – 75%! You may want to consider taking a hearing test. Read on to learn more about how your hearing is linked to your cognitive abilities.
Is Cognitive Decline Normal?
Cognitive decline is part of the natural aging process. As a child, your brain went through a period or rapid growth, as you learned how to walk, developed language, and discovered everything about the world around you. As a teenager or young adult, this growth slowed, and as an older adult, it’s normal that some of the pathways in your brain start to weaken, and cells start to degenerate. The parts of the brain you don’t use as much will experience the most cognitive decline, in a tragic case of “use it or lose it”, and as your senses weaken, whether it is your vision or hearing or both, those areas of the brain risk more damage.
While it’s perfectly normal to experience some cognitive decline as the wear and tear of life takes its toll on our bodies and brains, major cognitive decline isn’t something anyone should have to live with, and there are steps you can take to keep your brain active and healthy for years to come.
How Vision and Hearing Loss Affect the Brain
A recent study found that declines in vision or hearing led to overall cognitive decline. Researchers from the University of Manchester in the U.K., with help from the University of Michigan, measured rates of hearing loss and tested cognitive abilities. People with hearing loss experienced rapid cognitive decline, and performed poorly on cognitive tests. Living with untreated hearing loss not only affected their ability to hear, but also the parts of the brain responsible for memory, concentration, and language production.
The good news is that for those who wore hearing aids, rates of cognitive decline were slowed by 75%! This means that treating hearing loss could be the key to slowing cognitive decline. A similar study found that cataract surgery to correct vision had comparable results, and people who treated their vision problems slowed cognitive decline by 50%. Hearing loss and cognition are closely linked, and looking after your senses improves your brain health. When you wear hearing aids, the cells in the brain that were inactive, start to receive stimulation again, and these cells are strengthened, improving cognition.
Not only does living with untreated hearing loss lead to rapid cognitive decline and cell degradation in the brain, it also leads to social isolation, which can speed up cognitive decline even more!
When you have hearing loss, it can be difficult to maintain friendships and close relationships. Clear communication is so important when it comes to socializing, and when you have to ask people to repeat themselves over and over, or just smile and nod, and hope they weren’t expecting an answer to their question, social situations can become difficult to navigate. While you still enjoy talking to people one-on-one in a quiet place, you may have stopped going out to dinner with friends, or choose to stay home far more often than you used to. This affects your mental well-being, as well as your quality of life, and when you don’t interact with other people, your brain has even less exercise and you’ll experience even more cognitive decline.
Schedule a Hearing Test
Are you ready to take a hearing test? Call us today at Pacific Northwest Audiology to schedule a hearing test, and learn more about your hearing health. Our team will determine your range of hearing, and show you just which sounds you’re missing. Then, with a sleek, sophisticated device, you can get back to hearing clearly, participating in social activities, and looking after the health of your brain.