Brain Awareness Week: How Your Brain and Hearing are Connected

a woman holding the outstretched hand of her spouse

This week is Brain Awareness Week. This global campaign, celebrated every March, aims to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research for people of all ages.

As a supporter of BAW, we’d like to talk about the link that connects our brain and our hearing.

While it’s been known that hearing loss can lead to an increased decline in cognitive functions, a recent study reveals that hearing aids can reduce that risk.

“For the first time, we have evidence that hearing aids are a prevention against accelerated cognitive decline in later years.” – Donald Schum, Ph. D., vice president of audiology and professional practice for Oticon, Inc.

For over 25 years, researchers at the Université Victor-Segalen in France, followed 3,670 adults from ages 65 and over. They compared the trajectory of cognitive decline among those who wore hearing aids and those who didn’t.

The study found that people who used hearing aids have the same risk for age-related cognitive decline as people without hearing loss. On the other hand, cognitive decline is increased for people who have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids. “That’s a powerful motivator for more than 75 percent of individuals with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids but are reluctant to address their hearing health,” says Schum.

In addition, a study by John Hopkins Medicine found that older adults with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia.

When hearing is compromised, the sound signal that the brain is accustomed to processing takes more effort. As a result, people tend to withdraw from social interactions. And when they do, depression and other health issues set in, which then lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Hearing wellness affects our overall wellness. “It’s not just about hearing well, it’s about the long-term effects of untreated hearing loss,” says Schum.