You already know that hearing loss can make it difficult to listen to music or follow along with a group of friends talking over dinner at Spritz City Bistro. However, what you may not know is that hearing loss can actually change the way your brain functions.
Hearing Loss Causes Your Brain to Work Differently To Hear
When you experience hearing loss, the parts of your brain that are responsible for processing sounds don’t get the same stimulation. This can cause these parts not to function as well as they used to. Eventually, hearing loss can lead to other parts of the brain working to help you hear.
A 2015 study examined brain changes due to hearing loss. Researchers took EEG recordings to monitor brain activity in people with varying degrees of hearing loss while playing certain sounds over a speaker. They then compared the results to participants with normal hearing.
These recordings showed that in people with hearing loss, areas of the brain responsible for senses such as touch or vision would take over or recruit areas of the brain dedicated to hearing to try and compensate for lost senses.
When your brain does this, it’s called “cross-modal” cortical reorganization.
Cognitive Consequences of Hearing Loss
The brain’s adaptability otherwise referred to as neuroplasticity, is amazing. However, these changes also come with downsides.
Cross-modal cortical reorganization can impair your overall brain function because certain parts of the brain are no longer able to carry out their main function. This can impact your ability to engage in higher-level decision-making and may lead you to experience mental fatigue more quickly, especially when trying to engage with others.
Studies have also shown that hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy in the brain and increase your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Hearing Aids Can Help Cognition
While the risks of cognitive problems are certainly concerning, research has shown that using hearing aids to treat hearing loss can also benefit the brain.
A 2020 study examined the cognitive function before and after hearing aid use in adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. After six months of treatment, researchers found that cognitive performance significantly improved, which, as the study states, “provide(s) evidence that clinical intervention with well-fit amplification may promote more typical cortical organization and functioning and provide cognitive benefit.”
If you have additional questions about hearing loss or wish to get your hearing tested, call The Hear Care Center to schedule an appointment today.