Researchers are learning more and more about the causal mechanisms between cognitive decline and loss of hearing. Much is already known and the body of knowledge continues to grow. There seems to be a circular path between cognition and hearing loss. Hearing loss, specifically age-related hearing loss, involves structural and functional changes to both the brain and the ear.
The Correlation Between Hearing Loss, Aging and Cognitive Function
One of the prevailing theories connecting hearing loss and cognition is related to cognitive load. We all have a set number of cognitive resources available to us at one time. When you have hearing loss, you are forced to use cognitive resources, from the frontal lobe for example, that are not intended to be used for hearing. The additional cognitive load may impact your ability to remember what is being said during the conversation.
On the flip side, someone who has cognitive decline will struggle to follow conversations. Scientists have known for years about changes in the auditory portions of our brain that impact our ability to understand people: speed of processing, ability to focus when there are distractions, and working memory. A deterioration of these processes can have a profound impact on communication, regardless of the amount of hearing loss a person has.
As we age, we are subject to many potential health conditions. One of the most common is atherosclerosis, or changes in how blood flows through the body. Other risk factors for hearing loss include smoking and diabetes.
These and other conditions affect both our hearing and cognitive impairment through a process known as neurodegenerative loss.
The good news is we can dramatically slow the process or alter its course by keeping ourselves healthy and active both mentally and physically.
How Can an Audiologist Help with Cognitive Decline?
During a routine hearing test, your audiologist will evaluate not only your ability to hear sounds at different frequencies but also whether you can interpret the more complex sounds such as speech.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), most people wait an average of 7 years before having a hearing test or considering hearing aids. Unfortunately, during that time, hearing loss can have a negative impact on cognitive function. This is why audiologists have become more assertive about encouraging people to address hearing loss while it is still mild.
There is strong evidence indicating hearing aids work to slow the progression of cognitive problems. In addition to hearing aid use, aural rehabilitation exercises may provide additional help.
Similarly, improving and strengthening our cognition can have substantial effects on how we process sounds, including how we communicate with others.
How Does Hearing Loss Affect Our Well-being?
Hearing loss encourages solitude, which is a significant risk factor for cognitive decline. One of the first things people with hearing loss notice is difficulty filtering out a conversation, particularly if there is background noise, such as in a busy household or even a restaurant or store.
The result is often withdrawal. Some people experience depression because of the frustration and embarrassment they feel due to their communication difficulties.
The Use of Cognivue to as a Screener for Cognitive Decline
Due to the growing body of research on hearing loss and cognition, many audiologists now recommend Cognivue, which uses FDA-cleared technology to screen for cognitive issues that affect hearing and communication.
Hearing aids are “aids.” They are different than eyeglasses, which strive for “correction.” Screening and focusing on cognition can also be viewed as an “aid.”
The results of a Cognivue screening will help your audiologist make appropriate hearing aid recommendations and set expectations. Results may also inform you and guide you to health care providers that specialize in the neuro-aging process.
Schedule a Cognivue Screening in Silicon Valley
Pacific Hearing Service has had the honor of caring for tens of thousands of incredible people since 1977. We are the most trusted audiology practice in Silicon Valley, having gained the confidence of patients, leading organizations, and local physicians.
A cognitive screening with our audiologists will give you a broader picture of your hearing and listening abilities and ensure you receive a highly individualized treatment plan from our caring team.
To schedule a cognitive screening, please fill out the form on this page.
We look forward to hearing from you shortly.
Click on this link to learn about some theories related to hearing loss and cognition.