The human brain is made up of approximately one hundred billion neurons. Information travels between these neurons to comprehend everything we see, think and do.
So, what happens to our brain as we age and our senses start to fail?
March is brain awareness month and we want to talk about how cognitive decline can occur with hearing loss.
When our hearing starts to fail
When hearing loss occurs, the part of the brain devoted to hearing can become reorganized, or reassigned to other functions.
A study done at the University of Colorado’s Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science, assessed adults and children with varying degrees of hearing loss to measure how the brain responded to sound stimulation.
What they found is that when hearing loss occurs, the areas of the brain that manage other senses, like vision and touch, take over the areas of the brain that normally process hearing. Essentially the brain compensates for the loss and adapts by rewiring itself.
Even mild or early stages of hearing loss are linked to cognitive decline.
Early diagnosis and intervention to aid in hearing loss is essential to maintaining cognitive function. Hearing loss can impact the brain’s ability to process sound, which can affect a person’s ability to understand speech. But, with the help of hearing aids such as cochlear implants, cognitive skills and speech comprehension can actually improve.
Even mild hearing loss can cause changes in the brain, so hearing screenings for all ages are important to protect against reorganization of the brain.