Cognitive Decline Associated with Hearing Loss Backed Up by New Study

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The first step towards reducing the likelihood of reduced cognitive function due to hearing loss begins with scheduling an appointment with an experienced audiologist. Audiology Associates and Dr. Peter Marincovich, Ph.D. provide the latest testing and treatment options for patients suffering from hearing loss.

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With a new understanding of how hearing loss physically affects the brain perhaps more people will be inspired to seek help from an audiologist in the early stages.

Exciting news on the forefront of audiology comes from researchers at the University of Colorado as reported by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) just last month. The study proposes that the part of the brain dedicated to hearing can actually become ‘reorganized’ in the early-stages of hearing loss. This discovery may point to the role hearing loss plays in cognitive decline – particularly in older Americans.

“At Audiology Associates we understand how hearing loss can affect a person’s lifestyle and sense of well-being in four major areas in particular: family, happiness, safety and work,” says Peter J. Marincovich, Ph.D. director of Audiology Services at Audiology Associates. “With a new understanding of how hearing loss physically affects the brain - even in the early stages - and when left untreated can lead to apparent decline in cognition perhaps more people will be inspired to seek help from an audiologist before the brain has been altered by long term hearing loss.”

The Impacts of Hearing Loss

Communication is the key to healthy relationships, and in many cases, frustration over having to ask for words to be repeated is what causes people to seek out professional help with hearing loss. Reluctance to ask for clarification in conversations and feelings of embarrassment that follows can cause people to become isolated. When hearing loss causes someone to isolate themselves from the people and activities they love, it also hurts family and friends; they too suffer the consequences of that hearing loss. Better communication is the key to most relationships — with friends, family, or business — and that starts with better hearing.

A decline in overall quality of life is very often associated with hearing loss, with a variety of areas affected:

  •     income potential
  •     social life
  •     general well-being
  •     mental health
  •     self-esteem

Social isolation due to hearing loss can cause a person to miss out on doing the things that they otherwise enjoy because they can’t hear well enough to fully experience them. The new study by the University of Colorado underscores what audiologists are already well aware of; hearing loss affects mental health. When you put these factors all together, self-esteem is another facet of well-being that comes under fire from hearing loss, and depression is likely to follow.

One national study indicated that a mild hearing loss (a loss in hearing ability of at least 25 decibels) is associated with an increased likelihood of falls – three times more likely than in folks with normal hearing. “More attention paid and brainpower devoted to hearing means less attention and brainpower available for other things, such as awareness of surroundings,” says Dr. Marincovich. “This clearly is a safety hazard, and as hearing loss worsens it becomes an even bigger problem.”

For example, an inability to hear a car horn, an ambulance siren, a fire alarm — all signals that alerts to danger — can put a person at risk. In addition, compensatory brain reorganization as a result of hearing loss as revealed in this recent study may also be a factor in explaining reports that show age-related hearing loss is significantly correlated with dementia.

And finally, individuals with an untreated hearing loss tend to earn less on average than those with normal hearing, and they have lower lifetime earnings. Many types of hearing loss disrupt speech and might cause a person to miss out on important details — details that can negatively affect job performance. Treating hearing loss can help a person become more valuable to an employer, which in turn increases financial security.

Early Treatment for Hearing Loss is Imperative

If one in three adults over the age of 60 has age-related hearing loss (as statistics reveal), the results of the University of Colorado study strongly suggest that age-related hearing loss must be taken seriously, particularly in its earliest stages to protect against potential reorganization of the brain.

At three Bay Area locations, Audiology Associates offers comprehensive hearing care—from cutting edge diagnostic testing services, including tinnitus management and balance evaluations, and digital hearing solutions to assistive technology and rehabilitative therapy—as well as an exceptional patient support network. The team of fully credentialed, certified audiologists and trained Hearing Loss Support Specialist works with patients and their physicians to accurately assess patient needs, then develops a plan of action to ensure the best hearing experience possible. For more information about Dr. Marincovich and Audiology Associates, visit their website or call 707-523-4740 to schedule an appointment with Audiology Associates for expert hearing care.

Resources:
Acoustical Society of America (ASA). "How does the brain respond to hearing loss?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2015. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150519104604.htm.

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