Posted on: January 21, 2016

Today we will examine the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Several recent studies have indicated that there is a relationship between hearing loss and dementia. One such study found that adults with hearing loss performed more poorly on cognitive tests than those with good hearing.

How could hearing loss affect cognitive function? A study out of John Hopkins University revealed that those with hearing loss had accelerated brain tissue loss, specifically in the areas of the brain important for processing speech, and sound in general. It is often said we hear with our brain, not our ears. This is true. When we have hearing loss, less information gets to the brain. In turn, the parts of the brain responsible for processing sound can atrophy from lack of stimulation.

It is important to consider that parts of the brain don’t work in isolation. Everything is connected. Areas of the brain responsible for memory are located in the same lobe of the brain as the areas for hearing and speech comprehension. When these areas deteriorate it can affect nearby areas, which may be why there seems to be a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, including memory loss.

Research in this area is ongoing. One question is to determine if the use of hearing aids can decrease the rate of cognitive decline for people with hearing loss. In any case it is a good idea to have your hearing checked on a regular basis so that any loss can be addressed sooner rather than later.

See below for links to some of the studies mentioned.

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Relevant studies: