Loss Of Hearing May Lead To Loss Of Memory

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For almost 30 years, studies have shown that hearing impairment, or loss, is related to dementia. Similar results are still seen in research today. In fact, one of the recent studies found that cognitive abilities declined about 30 to 40 times faster in older individuals with hearing loss than in those individuals with normal hearing.  Scientists agree that untreated hearing loss is associated with an increased risk for developing dementia. However, they have many different theories as to how the two are related. Let’s explore two of the most common theories below.

 

Hearing loss means the brain must change the way it processes information

If the brain is constantly receiving fuzzy signals or distorted sounds due to hearing loss, it may have to work extra hard to decipher these messages and process these sounds. This may mean the brain has to divert resources away from other tasks such as thinking and memorizing. Similarly, the parts of the brain don’t work well when in isolation of one another. The parts of the brain used to process sound also have functions in processing memory and other sensory input. If the parts of the brain responsible for hearing begin to atrophy, or weaken over time, it may have a “domino effect” on other parts of the brain. Thus, other parts of the brain may begin to weaken over time, as well.

 

Hearing loss may lead to social isolation

Social situations are often loud and full of competing conversations and noises. Individuals with untreated hearing loss may find it difficult or frustrating to engage in conversations with others. So these situations may become less enjoyable as hearing difficulties progress. This can lead to social isolation and possibly depression, which in turn can cause an increased risk of dementia.

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