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Hearing Loss

Hearing Affects Everything Between Your Ears

  • We hear with our brain, not our ears. If you’re like most people, you’re used to thinking of hearing as something that happens in your ears. What people often don’t think about is what happens between their ears, in the hearing part of their brain. That’s where sound becomes information that has meaning and your brain has to work hard to make this happen.

    When you listen to a conversation, your ears and your brain work together as a system, with your brain doing most of the heavy lifting. Your brain is what helps you focus in on a conversation and separate out unwanted noise. The brain uses the information from your two ears to orient you by figuring out which direction sound is coming from and it’s in your brain that sound waves become sounds that you recognize. These tasks are happening continuously and simultaneously inside your brain.

    There is a direct relationship between your hearing and brain function and when you have hearing loss, this relationship is disrupted. In recent studies by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging:

    • Individuals with hearing loss experience a 30-40 percent accelerated rate of cognitive decline.
    • Decrease in brain stimulation due to hearing loss contributes to brain atrophy.
    • The brain becomes smaller with age, however the shrinkage seems to be fast tracked in older adults with hearing loss.
    • Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal.

    That’s why it makes sense to take care of your hearing health the same way you care about the rest of your health: There’s a lot more riding on it than just your hearing. In a study done at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain function.” According to research, better hearing can improve cognition by exercising the brain, which reduces the risk of dementia. Also, individuals who seek better hearing report engaging in more social activity, having more energy and experiencing less frustration.

    Fortunately, there have been significant breakthroughs in modern hearing aid technology. This new technology delivers the purest signal possible in a way your brain is best able to understand. The result is a more natural, effortless listening experience in all environments including noise. Having a diagnostic hearing evaluation performed by a Doctor of Audiology is an important first step. By identifying and correcting hearing loss sooner than later, your entire auditory system, including your Brain Function, will benefit.

    *Frank Lin, M.D., Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging