Hearing Loss and Your Brain


New research shows the link between the ear and mind might be more important than we thought. Here’s what you should know about it.

Beyond Hearing Loss  It’s easy to think of hearing loss as simply a discomfort that comes with growing older. But in recent years, several studies have shown that hearing loss might also contribute to memory loss, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. In the past, it was thought that hearing loss only exacerbated the symptoms of these conditions; now, research shows that it actually may make you more likely to develop them.

What’s the Connection?

There are several theories that attempt to explain this connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. A few include:

Cognitive overload. When the brain has to work really hard to translate sounds, other cognitive skills, like memory, are diminished.

Auditory deprivation. Depriving the brain of stimulation from sound can contribute to cognitive decline. Certain parts of the brain muscle essentially don’t get enough “exercise.”

Social isolation. Hearing loss can cause people to withdraw from activities, which further increases risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

The Value of Hearing Aids In addition to drastically improving quality of life, hearing aids work out the brain muscle by exposing it to sounds and speech, which the brain in turn has to process and interpret. This activity helps keep the mind sharp, active, and potentially less susceptible to memory loss. Of course, wearing hearing aids is no surefire safeguard against dementia, but it certainly could help deter some cognitive decline.