Hearing loss really does have the ability to completely change the life of the person it affects. If we are to look at the stats about the loss of hearing in the States, we will quickly see that millions upon millions of people throughout the States (and the world) suffer from this horrible condition. It is not surprising that the demand for digital hearing aids has increased these past few years and is still increasing.
Not being able to hear properly has a number of devastating consequences on the person who is affected. Very often, not being able to communicate what they are feeling just due to hearing loss can be very frustrating, to say the absolute least.
The other main issue of feeling like not being heard is that it can lead to other issues and problems, which can affect the person’s ability to function normally everyday. These issues can lead to social isolation, and as a result, it can even turn into depression if the condition persists and remains unmitigated.
Loss of hearing can lead to a lot of changes within the body and especially within the brain. While it is true that our ears are responsible for perceiving the sounds in our environment, it is the job of the brain to make sense of that sound. The brain is responsible for processing these sounds and making sense out of them.
One important thing to note is that loss of hearing takes hold of a person at any age that they are in. As we have mentioned earlier, a very significant portion of the American population is hard to hear and/or just suffers from loss of hearing. There have been quite a few studies that have been conducted in order to see the effects of hearing loss on the brain.
There is a whole range of reasons that can explain exactly why this thing happens and the number of ways in which loss of hearing has the potential to have an impact on the functioning capabilities of the brain.
Why does it affect the brain?
While it is true that there has been a lot of research on understanding how hearing loss affects the brain, the relationship between the two is, as of yet, not completely understood. There is a strand of a theory that suggests that when hearing loss takes hold of a person, then the person’s cognitive functions go down, which eventually leads to a decline in cognitive ability. It is very similar to the use it or loses it mantra.
Then, another theory suggests that there may be some pre-existing conditions that can lead to a decline in hearing abilities. This can then lead to a decline in cognitive skills because we have just discussed above. Once again, we see the use it or lose it mantra at play here. The most dangerous and possibly the worst scenario that is possible is that there will be a combination of both the effects.
How exactly does it affect the brain?
A lot of studies have been able to show that the brain almost goes through a process of reorganization when there is a loss of hearing. This condition also has a name. It is sometimes referred to as cross-modal cortical reorganization, or it can also be referred to as compensatory brain reorganization.
This happens because the brain has a tendency to compensate if there is a loss of any form or type of sense. What happens is that the brain basically just rewires itself. When there is a loss of hearing, the brain then puts a lot of additional emphasis on the other senses that it does have. This has the ability to cause a lot of fatigue which can also lead to problems with concentration.
It is true that this entire process can actually help a person cope when they suffer from a loss of hearing to a certain extent. But it is also true that this process really does have the potential to reduce by a significant amount the ability the person has to process sound. This will exaggerate the problems that the person faces in properly understanding language and speech as well.
This effect is then compounded by the higher levels of brain processing that are required in order to concentrate enough brain resources in order to understand speech properly. The other functions that the brain has basically take over from hearing, which leaves them incapable of performing their main functions.
What this compensatory effect does is that it overloads the brain, and it does so, especially in adults who are aging. A lot of recent research has also suggested that this is a primary reason why people who suffer from a loss of hearing later on in life are much more likely to suffer from dementia.
Early detection can slow down cognitive decline.
It is essential to know that even in the very early stages of loss of hearing, the brain starts reorganizing itself. A lot of studies have been able to show that even before hearing loss gets to the level where it can be medically diagnosed, cognitive decline already starts by then. There have also been studies that have suggested that brain functioning is better in general in those who do not have any form of hearing loss.
Early detection of this loss of hearing really can help slow down the process of cognitive decline. This may be very well due to the fact that early detection can really help halt the changes that take place in the brain when there is a loss of hearing. If there is proper early detection, then it may save the patient a lot of time, energy, and resources in making sure that they are getting the optimum level of treatment possible.