Did you know that your Audiologist has a role to play in helping you keep your brain sharp, even as you age?
Healthy aging isn’t just about diet, skincare and workout regimens, although each of these also plays an important role in helping us look and feel our best.
Even though hearing loss is often associated with the aging process, there are options for treating hearing loss. This, in turn, helps improve quality of life and cognitive function as you get older.
How does healthy hearing benefit your brain?
Like any other muscle, our brains benefit from regular training.
Luckily, training the brain can be as simple as learning a new activity - like quilting or photo editing. Creativity - whether through music, dance, writing, art or even problem solving - is also an excellent way to maintain your brain.
Fortunately, this type of brain training also applies to hearing loss.
That's because we hear with our brains. Sound waves that enter the ear are translated into electrical impulses that travel on the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets the signals.
By catching hearing loss early and treating it, you will notice the following benefits:
- Improved communication helps you stay connected to others
- Continued participation in hobbies and activities you enjoy
- Less brain power spent focusing on hearing means more energy for memory, thinking and other brain-training activities
These benefits together add up to positive results - not just for your hearing, but also for your brain.
Hearing loss is common in mature adults
If you feel your hearing’s not as good as it used to be, you’re probably right.
According to a Statistics Canada study, measured hearing loss increases as the population gets older.
Past the age of 50, you’re statistically more likely to have some level of measured hearing loss than not. That’s why we recommend seeing an Audiologist for a hearing evaluation to make sure.
What causes hearing loss?
While hearing loss is more common as people age, aging is not the only cause of hearing loss. Hearing loss can also be caused by:
- Exposure to loud noise
- Certain kinds of medication
- Serious infection
- Head injury or accidents
- Other health conditions such as Meniere's disease
We like to remind clients that hearing is a “use it or lose it” sense.
When you stop hearing certain sounds — for any reason — the auditory nerve and parts of the brain that process sound become out of practice.
That’s why early detection and treatment of hearing loss is so vital: it allows an Audiologist to bring more of that lost sound back into hearing range quickly and keep those brain synapses firing properly.
Other benefits of better hearing
In addition to maintaining your cognitive health, there are many other benefits of better hearing.
- Maintaining social engagement
- Improving communication
- Lowering the risk of depression
- Continuing with activities and hobbies you enjoy
- Staying involved with work and/ or volunteer activities
- Experiencing positive health outcomes
There are adults over the age of 50 who have never had a hearing test because it's not required during a physical exam. If you've have never had your hearing tested, or if it’s been two years since your last hearing test, it's time to see an Audiologist. We recommend setting "a baseline" - an initial measurement of the levels at which you hear specific tones and frequencies. This allows an Audiologist to quantify changes over time by comparing your most recent hearing test to the baseline measurement.
Can wearing hearing aids help protect your brain?
A recent study shows that people with hearing loss who wear hearing aids have better brain function over time than those with untreated hearing loss.
Wearing hearing aids may also reduce the risk of dementia by helping people keep their brains sharp and nimble as they age.
The key takeaway here is that treating hearing loss as early as possible improves memory, communication, and other skills that help us in daily life.
Studies show just how important hearing can be for your mental acuity.
Can hearing aids improve cognitive function in mature adults?
We know that early detection of hearing loss and treatment with hearing aids can help maintain your cognitive function - but could you hope to improve your cognitive function with hearing aids?
Cognitive function refers to our mental abilities such as learning, thinking, problem-solving, memory, and decision-making.
Audiologist Martine Schlagintweit summarized a key study, which demonstrated that 2/3 of the participants reported a significant improvement in their ability to hear and communicate after being fitted with hearing aids.
In addition to improving their cognitive function, participants also improved their executive function - these are the skills we use every day to manage life and carry out plans.
And it didn’t take long - participants in this study reported improvements after 18 months.
Anecdotally, we hear from clients here in the clinic who notice positive benefits from their hearing aids almost immediately.
In many cases it's the small sounds that come back into range - birds chirping, the buzz of insects, a clicking turn signal in the car - that surprise new hearing aid wearers the most. It's also these seemingly insignificant sounds that help keep your brain trained and your hearing healthy as you age.
Let’s help keep your brain sharp and active
The evidence is clear: treating hearing loss - especially through the use of hearing aids - is a key factor in maintaining optimal brain function.
Are you ready to protect your brain against hearing loss?
To speak with an Audiologist, call us or request an appointment online to schedule an appointment: Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2969 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921.