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A hearing aid may help with slowing the process of atrophy, as well as help hearing ability. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that losses in hearing may affect how fast the hearing center of the brain decays, increasing the effort necessary for older adults or anyone with hearing loss to successfully comprehend speech.
When one of our senses is altered, the brain reorganizes and adjusts to the loss. In the case of hearing loss, researchers found that the gray matter density of the auditory areas of the brain was lower in people who had a lowered hearing ability – which suggests a connection between hearing ability and brain volume.
“As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered — not only to improve hearing, but to preserve the brain, said Jonathan Peelle, PhD, a Research Associate in U Penn’s Department of Neurology. “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”
In the study, the relationship of hearing acuity to the brain was noted, first measuring the brain’s response to increasingly complex sentences, then the cortical brain volume in the auditory center. Older adults of normal hearing for their age were examined to determine whether normal variations in hearing had any effect on the makeup of the areas of the brain that support speech discrimination.
They found that people with hearing loss had less brain activity when listening to complex sentences. People with hearing loss had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, which supports the theory that those areas of the brain may atrophy faster when their ability to hear gets worse.
The research points to problems in both hearing perception and discrimination — understanding what is being said becomes more and more difficult.
The research was conducted in older adults, but the results have implications for younger individuals as well, including those who listen to music at loud volumes.
“Your hearing ability directly affects how the brain processes sounds, including speech,” said Peele. “Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears, but it also helps your brain perform at its best.
If you have any questions about hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing.