There has been a lot of research lately that looks at the link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive changes. In 2013, a study from the Johns Hopkins Center of Aging and Health concluded that “individuals with hearing loss at baseline had a 24% increased risk for incident cognitive impairment,” and “Hearing loss is independently associated with accelerated cognitive decline and incident cognitive impairment in community-dwelling older adults.” This study also found that those with hearing loss showed a faster decline in cognition than normal hearing individuals.
Untreated hearing loss can cause an increase in cognitive load. This means that the brain is overworking and constantly focusing on what sounds are going on around them, the brain then does not function efficiently. Brain cells can also shrink overtime due to lack of auditory stimulation. As a person develops hearing loss, they can become more socially isolated over time. If they struggle to hear in conversations, they will stay home instead and be more reclusive. This isolation also contributes to a decrease of brain stimulation.
By treating a person’s hearing loss, they are helping to keep the brain stimulated. This stimulation helps a person better distinguish speech sounds in quiet and in noise. It also helps a person stay socially active and involved in conversations. If you are concerned about your hearing and cognitive changes, it is recommended you see a Doctor of Audiology for a full evaluation.
Lin FR, Yaffe K, Xia J, et al. Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(4):293–299. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868