June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month! Recently, “brain health” has been a big buzz word in the news and rightfully so! In 2016, the World Alzheimer Report projected a doubling of dementia cases every 20 years as a result of the increasing aging population (Prince, et al., 2016). As a person ages, the prevalence of hearing loss doubles with each decade of life and is present in nearly two-thirds of adults over 70 years of age (Lin, et al., 2011). Dr. Lin and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins later found that older adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop thought and memory problems than older adults whose hearing is normal (2013). In the study, subjects with untreated hearing loss exhibited cognitive abilities that had declined 30-40% faster than subjects with normal hearing.
At Hearts for Hearing, we strive to educate our patients on the importance of hearing in relation to brain health. How are the two connected? Contrary to popular belief, the brain is what hears, not our ears. The ears simply provide a way in. Once a sound occurs, the sound travels through all three parts of the ear and is transformed and translated into various forms of signals. The sound then reaches the auditory nerve, which acts as the connection point between the ear and the auditory cortex of the brain. The auditory cortex processes sound and allows us to hear, understand, and put meaning behind the sound heard.
The brain works similarly to our muscles – if you stop using it, those muscles atrophy. When an individual has hearing loss, the stimulation to the auditory cortex is reduced. Without proper stimulation, the neural connections in the auditory cortex begin to break down and weaken. This is known as auditory deprivation. Extended periods of auditory deprivation can cause difficulty understanding speech, and increased difficulty listening in noisy environments even with the assistance of hearing technology. Because of these communication issues, the incidence of stress, fatigue, apathy, depression, and aggression increases (Palmer et al., 2017; Slaughter et al., 2014).
Due to the increasing evidence of the connection between healthy hearing and healthy brains, Hearts for Hearing offers easy access for you and your friends/family members to have their hearing checked! We offer free hearing screenings to all to identify the presence of potential hearing loss. These screenings only take a few minutes and can provide some answers to whether or not a more comprehensive hearing evaluation may be necessary! If you are interested in a free hearing screening, contact our Oklahoma City clinic at 405-548-4335 or our Tulsa clinic at 918-392-7600.