Eight years ago in 2010, Dr. Frank Lin,MD, PhD, and other collaborators published, at that time, new research regarding links between hearing loss and developing dementia. Dr. Frank Lin, MD, PhD, is an otolaryngologist and epidemiologist at John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Lin, as an ENT and epidemiologist, one who studies patterns of frequency and the causes and effects of diseases in human populations, is a perfect fit for this type of research. These findings were published in John Hopkins Journal of Medicine.
The study found three links where hearing loss threatens healthy brain function which can lead to dementia. Cognitive resources, brain atrophy and social isolation, all influencing someone who has an age related hearing loss.
Cognitive decline materializes as the brain is constantly coping with sounds and words that are harder to hear and process. The second link, brain atrophy, “People with hearing loss show less brain activity on functional MRI scans when listening to complex sentences. Poorer hearers also had less gray matter in the auditory cortex suggesting that areas of the brain related to auditory processing may show accelerated atrophy when hearing ability declines.” (Pennmedicine.org) Social isolation, the third theory, is perhaps the easiest to understand. Social support is an important part of healthy living. When understanding conversation is challenging and exhausting, it is easier to retreat into isolation.
In conclusion, “If you want to address hearing loss well,” Lin says, “you want to do it sooner rather than later. If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we’re seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place.”
And Jonathan Peelle, PhD, research associate in the Department of Penn Neurology suggests, “As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the brain.”
John Hopkins University, HopkinsMedicine.org