People may think that hearing only affects listening to sounds and communicating. Researchers are finding out that hearing loss is much more than missing certain sounds and asking people to repeat. There is also a correlation between hearing, memory and cognitive ability.

A recent study by researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied a group of about 2,000 men and women with an average age of 77. At the start of the study, none of them had any significant cognitive problems. The group was tracked and administered hearing and cognitive testing over a six-year period, and the results found that those who entered the study with enough hearing loss to interfere with conversation were 24 percent more likely to have impaired cognitive abilities over their counterparts with normal hearing.

In a previous study, also conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, a link was found between hearing loss and dementia. Six hundred and thirty-nine people began the study without any cognitive impairment. Over the course of the study that followed the subjects for an average of 12 years, researchers tested their mental abilities regularly. Their results showed that the worse initial hearing loss was the more likelihood for a person to develop dementia. Those with moderate hearing loss had three times the risk of developing dementia over those with normal hearing.

The research does show that there is a relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline, but more investigation is needed to find out if treatment can actually prevent memory loss and dementia. Treating and preventing hearing loss does appear to be very important to the brain. If you are experiencing hearing loss, seek the help of a hearing health professional.

Researchers are not sure why hearing loss affects memory. This may have to do with the cognitive load, meaning that constant effort to understand stresses the brain. Hearing loss may also affect the brain’s structure. Social isolation may also play a huge part. Not hearing well can cause people to become isolated. Those with hearing loss are more likely to suffer from communication difficulties, depression and difficulty focusing. Hearing loss can be gradual and subtle. You may not realize your hearing problem is that big of an issue.

Regular hearing evaluations are important. At Sandia Hearing Center, we perform quality hearing exams. Protect your hearing and visit us or call us at Sandia Hearing Center at 719-634-6260.