Hearing Loss Linked to Subtle Brain Changes: The Insights and Implications

Preventative measures are key to preserving hearing and, by extension, protecting the brain.

Hearing Loss Linked to Subtle Brain Changes: The Insights and Implications

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common condition affecting over 60 percent of US adults aged 70 and older. Its connection to an increased risk of dementia has long been observed, but the underlying reasons have remained somewhat elusive. 

A groundbreaking study by researchers from the University of California San Diego and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute offers new insights into this link, revealing that hearing impairment is associated with subtle changes in specific brain regions. 

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on November 21, 2023, utilized hearing tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to explore the impact of hearing impairment on the brain.  

The findings indicate that individuals with hearing loss show microstructural differences in the auditory areas of their temporal lobes, as well as in regions of the frontal cortex involved in speech, language processing, and executive function. 

The Study’s Findings: A Closer Look 

These brain changes are thought to result from the increased cognitive effort required to process sounds and understand speech. Linda K. McEvoy, PhD, the study’s principal investigator, suggests that the compensatory mechanisms the brain employs in response to hearing difficulties could contribute to the heightened risk of dementia.

This underscores the importance of adopting strategies that alleviate the cognitive load of auditory processing, such as using subtitles, live captioning apps, and hearing aids, and choosing quieter environments for conversations. 

The research draws on data from the Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging, analyzing 130 participants who underwent hearing tests between 2003 and 2005 and received MRI scans from 2014 to 2016. The region-specific brain changes observed highlight the consequences of sensory deprivation and the strain placed on auditory processing stimulations. 

Protecting Hearing to Safeguard Brain Health 

The study’s coauthor, Emilie T. Reas, PhD, emphasizes the critical role of hearing protection in maintaining cognitive health. She advocates for minimizing exposure to loud noises, using hearing protection with loud tools, and reducing the intake of ototoxic medications.

These preventative measures are key to preserving hearing and, by extension, protecting the brain against the changes that can lead to dementia. 

Empowering Individuals Through Awareness and Action 

As hearing care experts, we are dedicated to raising awareness about the intricate relationship between hearing loss and brain health. Our team of trusted hearing care experts is committed to providing comprehensive support to those experiencing hearing impairment. We offer personalized hearing solutions and education on how to protect your hearing, aiming to empower individuals to take proactive steps in preserving their cognitive and auditory health. 

Take the First Step Toward Better Hearing 

If you or a loved one is concerned about hearing loss and its potential impact on brain health, we encourage you to reach out to us.

Our experienced audiologists are here to guide you through the process of finding the right hearing aids and adopting strategies to ease the cognitive demands of auditory processing. 

Schedule a Consultation Today 

Don’t wait to address hearing loss. Early intervention can make a significant difference in maintaining your cognitive well-being. Contact Pacific Hearing Inc at (310) 909-0180 to schedule a consultation. Together, we can navigate the path to better hearing and safeguard your brain health for the future. 

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Gregory Frazer, PhD, AuD, CCC-A, ABA, NBC-HIS

Adjunct Professor UCSD/San Diego State U Audiology Program Adjunct Professor University of Pacific Audiology Program Adjunct Professor AT Still University Audiology Program Adjunct Professor Pacific University Audiology Program Dr. Gregory Frazer entered private practice Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensing in 1982. For 14 years he owned and operated Hearing Care Associates, which had 23 offices and was one of the largest audiology private practices in the U.S. Dr. Frazer is a well-known clinician and teacher and was the first audiologist to obtain dual doctorates in Audiology, both a PhD. in Audiology as well as the new Clinical Doctorate of Audiology, the AuD. He is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Academy of Audiology, and the National Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. Dr. Frazer specializes in the evaluation and treatment of vertigo, dizziness, and hearing and balance disorders. Dr. Frazer is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults. He is semi-fluent in Spanish and Sign Language.

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