Over the past decade, there have been more evidential conclusions or studies related to hearing loss and cognitive decline. Study reveals that older adults with hearing loss are significantly more likely to suffer from dementia than those who retain their hearing. When there is auditory deprivation, there is a significant strain on the area of the brain that processes communication. This area of the temporal lobe is called the primary auditory cortex and it not only controls hearing, but also the way language is processed. Individuals that struggle with hearing often become less social, and therefore their cognitive decline is affected by less interaction and less mental processing.
Hearing loss and increased gray matter
A recent study looked at the effects of high and low frequency hearing loss and the degree of gray matter and communication disruptions in various areas of the brain. The subjects were screened with brain scans and hearing tests to measure the degree of cognitive disorder with and without hearing devices.
The results of this study are consistent with the premise that high frequency hearing loss has cascading effects throughout the auditory system in older adults.1 High frequency hearing loss was associated with lower auditory cortex gray matter volume and increased cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the same region, suggesting that auditory cortex is atrophying with hearing loss.1 These effects were present even after controlling for age and gender effects, thereby providing additional support for direct effects of hearing loss on auditory cortex morphology.1
“Communication is crucial to keep the brain active and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Less interaction means less brain function, and more likelihood for degenerative changes” explains Dr. Wazen, Ear Research Foundation, Director of Research. He urges that despite the stay at home orders, those suffering from hearing loss should continue to stay connected whether it is by using online platforms like Zoom, FaceTime or other video chatting platforms. Long term hearing deprivation can impact cognitive performance by decreasing the quality communication leading to social isolation and depression. Treating your hearing loss does not prevent cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s or dementia, but if you do have such disorders, it is always important to maintain your brain stimulated.
How do I keep the hearing part of my brain (auditory cortex) active despite the stay at home orders?
If hearing loss is treated with hearing devices, the cognitive decline can be thwarted in many cases and it seems as though it might reverse some damage. The important point is to wear the hearing devices regularly on a daily basis.
1. Wear your hearing aids or implant processors despite being alone at home.
It is more critical for you to wear your hearing aids now than any other time. Hearing aids are not treating your ear; they are treating your brain by keeping it active.
It is important if you have hearing loss or have a history of brain disease to manage your hearing to at least prevent the hearing part of your brain degeneration. Effective intervention with hearing aids or cochlear implants may improve social and emotional function, communication, cognitive function, and quality of life
2. Have a face time or a zoom call with family member.
Social distancing does not mean you should stop your social interactions. With today’s technology, you can socialize at a distance. Make sure to pick up your smartphone and talk to someone at least once a day. If you do not hear, you tend to withdraw, you tend not to communicate, and that withdrawal will lead into more possibility of brain degeneration.
3. Listen to podcasts
Our hearing advocate Bill Fellows shares, “With time on my hands as a result of pandemic isolation, I have discovered the wide world of Podcasts. It is amazing the variety of helpful, educational, and entertaining Podcasts that are available. I am fortunate to have hearing devices that link to my phone allowing me to hear every word crystal clear. Try it..”
What to do if your loved ones suffer from hearing loss?
Make sure you check in and talk with your loved ones at least once a day and be patient. When people struggle to hear, communication can be difficult. Thus, social disengagement follows. If in person visits are not possible, make a phone or video call regularly.
Are you a healthy hearing advocate?
Wear this communicator clear face mask in public to help the hearing impaired communicate better.
These masks are made with:
. a clear window panel to assist in lip reading
. double layered fabric surrounding anti-fogging PET (CDC recommends at least two layers)
. tie around the head to reduce the risk of losing hearing aids.
Join Ear Research Foundation’s Hearing Advocate’s Coalition as a founding member with a monthly donation of only $5, $10 or more! Approximately 48,975 adults in Sarasota County are living with hearing loss, and 5,975 of those are living in poverty. The group was initiated to raise money for under-insured patients that need care during these trying times. Upon donating, you will receive a clear face mask as a gift.
Call Jodel Velarde at (941) 556 4219 or visit www.EarRF.org/HAC to advocate for healthy hearing with your mask!
Ear Research Foundation
In 1979, the Ear Research Foundation was established in Sarasota, Florida by President and Founder, Dr. Herbert Silverstein. The Foundation was created out of his desire to continue research and development, and to contribute to medical education in a private setting. In the field of Otolaryngology. A non-profit 5O1C-3 organization, Ear Research provides essential and innovative research, educational sessions to inform the community about hearing health and to train professionals in the field, and community care for people in need of hearing devices and care who could not otherwise afford it. Vital to the Ear Research Foundation is the strong partnership with Silverstein Institute.
The Silverstein Institute has locations in Sarasota, Venice, and Lakewood Ranch. An internationally respected physicians’ practice dedicated to diseases and surgery of the ears, nose, and throat. Silverstein Institute provides innovative, high quality patient care. A state-of-the-art organization, the staff and physicians work together every day to improve the health and well-being of their patients.
Jack J. Wazen, MD, FACS
Director of Research for Ear Research Foundation
Dr. Wazen, American Boards of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, and Neurotology Recognized repeatedly as one of Sarasota, New York, and American’s “Best Doctors”.
Dr. Wazen is one of the nation’s leading authorities on hearing and balance disorders, pioneering new research that expanded treatments for people with singlesided deafness and complex cases of hearing loss. He also is author of the seminal book, Dizzy, providing new treatment options and hope for people affected by balance and hearing disorders. Last Tuesday, October 22, 2020, he was named Chief of Staff of the Sarasota Memorial, serving as the top representative the hospital’s more than 1,400 medical staff members and advanced practice providers.
Start your path to better hearing, please contact the Silverstein Institute to schedule your appointment today.
Ear Research Foundation
(941) 365-0367 | www.earrf.org
1901 Floyd Street, Sarasota, FL 34239
1. M. Eckert, Auditory Cortex Signs of Age-Related Hearing Loss, J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2012 Oct; 13(5): 703–713. Published online 2012 May 23. doi: 10.1007/s10162-012-0332-5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441956/