As you age, your hearing declines. However, there are several reasons why you should protect your hearing as you get older. In addition to the many health benefits that come with the ability to hear well, evidence also exists that shows your hearing may be more inter-connected to others areas of your body in terms of healthy development. Recent research suggests that the health of your brain is linked to your ability to hear. Here, we take a look at this recent study and explore methods that can help you conserve your hearing and help your brain at the same time.
How Hearing Affects the Brain
A study done by the Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging involved performing annual MRIs and physicals on 126 people over a span of nearly two decades. Researchers noticed a correlation between hearing loss and brain size. This is commonly known in the medical community: when a person ages, his or her brain essentially shrinks in size. This is the main mechanism at play in conditions such as dementia and diminished mental capacity.
But the study revealed much more than that, uncovering more information about the condition of the patients’ brains as they got older. What they found was a positive correlation between hearing loss and shrinkage of the brain. Researchers concluded that individuals with hearing damage experienced a much faster rate of brain shrinkage than those without hearing damage. This means that those with hearing loss have a greater risk for brain atrophy, which can bring on dementia and many types of cognitive disorders.
Researchers found that when the brain has a damaged portion, it compensates for that loss, which often translates to gray matter damage. This can trigger losses throughout the brain, leading to the massive decreased brain sizes that were observed by study leaders. As a result of these findings, it is suggested that people do all they can to preserve their hearing well into their senior years.
Protecting Your Hearing
Johns Hopkins offered a few ways people can achieve this. First, you should see your doctor regularly so he or she can track any possible changes that mat be occurring. Regardless of age, you should see a doctor immediately if you notice a sudden change in normal hearing capacity. If you do this as soon as you notice it, you have a better chance of reversing some forms of hearing impairment through treatment. For those who already have hearing loss, this study is meant to be an incentive for increased vigilance when it comes to hearing health. Have your hearing checked every year and do all you can maintain or improve a high standard of health to preserve your mental capacity as you age.