Impact of Hearing Loss on Brain Function
Hearing loss can be frustrating for the person experiencing it first-hand as well as for his or her loved ones. However, losing one’s hearing might affect more than just the ability to listen to music or to be an active part of a conversation.
Our brain constantly changes throughout our lifetime, and the loss of hearing causes the brain to adapt or reorganize itself. How does the brain adapt to hearing loss and what is its impact on brain function? Here is a brief overview of the process.
Research has shown that when hearing loss occurs, cross-modal cortical reorganization begins within the brain. In simpler terms, the brain rewires itself to compensate for the loss of hearing, allowing other senses, such as sight or touch, to take over the areas of the brain that process hearing. Think of it as a self-induced makeover to adapt in today’s world. However, while most adaptations are beneficial, cross-modal cortical reorganization can be detrimental to brain function.
When hearing loss or impairment is present, the brain’s ability to process sound, including speech, is affected. The areas of the brain dedicated to hearing then become weaker, causing other areas to compensate for the deficit. As a result, parts of the brain reserved for higher-level thinking are activated to take over for hearing, making them unable to do their primary job.
For example, hearing allows you to pick up external cues that help you balance while walking. Hearing loss or impairment mutes those signals, causing the brain to work harder to process sound and possibly affect the ability to walk safely.
A recent study suggests that there is a high correlation between age-related hearing loss and dementia. When the decision-making areas of the brain compensate for the hearing loss by working overtime, extra stress is put on on the aging brain. Another contributing factor is that hearing loss or impairment can lead to social isolation as it may be difficult to engage in conversation or to be comfortable in noisier social situations.
Even slight hearing loss can contribute to brain reorganization resulting in cognitive decline, making regular hearing loss screenings even more important for older adults. As with any disorder, early intervention is essential to maintaining healthy function, preventing future issues, and preserving your quality of life.
If you're interested in getting a free evaluation for your hearing needs or questions, get in touch with Dennison Hearing Solutions today. We are committed to helping individuals maintain the best possible hearing throughout their lives. Using a combination of technology and personalized care, we will help you be yourself, maintain your vitality, and preserve your connections. Contact us at (770) 209-2627 or book an appointment online.