How Untreated Hearing Loss Can Affect the Brain
Research has shown that an individual is at an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline due to hearing loss. A 12 yearlong study by Doctor Frank Lin found that people with a mild hearing loss are at twice the risk for developing dementia, while people with a moderate hearing loss have tripled the risk and those with a severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia compared to people with normal hearing. Using brain scans, technology shows that hearing loss can cause a faster rate of atrophy, or progressive degeneration in the brain. Additionally, our memory also declines at a much faster rate with untreated hearing loss.
Your brain becomes less active
Hearing is a brain activity. This means that your ears receive a sound, but it’s your brain that makes sense of that sound. Auditory deprivation is when the brain is deprived of sound, and over time, loses the ability to process sound. Due to the lack of stimulation, the brain has difficulty understanding and processing auditory information. Research has found that if hearing loss is left untreated, parts of the brain that are responsible for hearing eventually become ‘reassigned’ to other tasks because they are not being used. Even a mild hearing loss can under-stimulate the brain. Just like the saying goes, use it, or lose it. The longer you wait to seek treatment for hearing loss, the more the brain will have trouble understanding and processing what is being heard.
Untreated hearing loss affects sociability
Hearing loss can also contribute to social isolation. When you have an untreated hearing loss, you often miss what people are saying or struggle to follow group conversations. This is particularly true if there is background noise. Many people with untreated hearing loss tend to avoid social situations because it is difficult to engage in conversations. This social isolation can also contribute to an individual’s risk of dementia.
You are more prone to falling
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths across the globe. While no one is fall-proof, hearing loss can increase the risk of falls, regardless of age. Untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of falls by 30%. This is because your ears should be able to pick up subtle cues to help you balance as you move. With a hearing loss, these cues and signals are no longer experienced leading to potential falls and balance issues.
When someone has an untreated hearing loss the brain is working much harder to process sounds and the surrounding environment. This leads to higher cognitive load. Your brain is multitasking which can interfere with the mental processing that is needed to stay upright and move safely. If your brain is using more energy on listening and making sense of what you hear, it then has less energy to maintain gait and balance. Hearing loss can also impact on our vestibular system. The vestibular system is a part of the inner ear which is responsible for maintaining balance, posture, and body position.
Treat Your Hearing Loss Before Its Too Late
The good news is that studies have shown enhanced hearing can improve balance in adults with hearing loss. Numerous research has concluded that hearing aid use is correlated with a lower risk of falls in adults with hearing loss. Hearing aid technology, such as Evolv AI hearing aids, can improve an individual’s hearing.Plus if the person does fall, these hearing aids have a built-in sensor that can detect the fall and send out an immediate alert to the individual’s chosen emergency contact. This emergency contact can reach out or call for help.
Treating hearing loss can greatly improve a person’s cognition and auditory processing. To learn more about how to treat your hearing loss or to learn about Evolv AI hearing aid technology, book an appointment at your local ihear clinic.