Retaining our mental health and sharpness is a goal we all should strive for as we age. While some risks for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are unavoidable, others can be monitored or avoided altogether. Our hearing abilities are connected directly to our brain, and if one begins to take a negative turn, the other may follow suit. Studies have shown that hearing loss can be a quick stepping stone to early signs of brain deterioration, which means taking precautionary steps to maintain your hearing is crucial.
Hearing and Brain Connections
The way our bodies interpret sound is impressive, intricate, and relies heavily on a well-functioning brain. The sounds we hear come to us as waves that move from the outer ear, inward to the middle, before arriving in the inner ear. Once inside, the sound waves vibrate thousands of micro hair cells that send electrical signals to our body’s auditory nerve. This auditory nerve is a direct road to the center of our brains, where vibration is translated into the sounds we recognize.
In an even more impressive demonstration, our brains can discriminate against sounds it deems irrelevant. Our brains can turn down the volume of background noises and help us focus on voices or any other specific sound we are trying to listen to. But if hearing loss begins to occur and those translations begin to slow, the brain may deteriorate, especially as we age.
Hearing Health and Brain Health
Our hearing health plays an even more significant role in the health of our brain than we previously thought. If hearing begins to fade and goes untreated, it can play a leading role in isolation and depression in the elderly community. Research over the years has linked isolation and hearing loss directly to brain deterioration and early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The lack of stimulation within the auditory nerve can be a leading cause of cognitive decline and atrophy of the brain.
In 2011, Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging released their findings on a study linking hearing loss and brain shrinkages. The results concluded that senior adults who experienced hearing loss were at a significantly higher risk of developing dementia compared to those who maintained their hearing capabilities. The research, which began in 1990, monitored volunteers’ hearing and cognitive abilities and continued to do so every two years up until the end of the study in 2008. The data showed that volunteers who began the study with untreated hearing loss were far more likely to have dementia by the end of the study, so much so that Johns Hopkins found that people with declines in their hearing consistently lost more brain tissue annually. This more aggressive brain deterioration was heavily due to a lack of stimulation from the auditory nerve.
How Can I Improve My Hearing?
The best way to track and improve your hearing health is by keeping close tabs on it with your physician. Many hearing implants on the medical market have made a world’s worth of difference to patients experiencing hearing loss. However, there are other ways for you to make a difference in your hearing health.
- Cleaning your ears regularly
- Eat foods that promote health and ear function (nuts, seeds, whole grains)
- Avoid foods with high-fat content and sodium levels
- Physical exercises
- Mental exercises (meditation, puzzles, games)
Strong hearing abilities keep our brains’ auditory nerves stimulated, which helps keep our minds sharp. The licensed professionals at American Senior Benefits know this and prioritize their senior clients’ needs above all else. The agents with American Senior Benefits are well-versed in the knowledge of their industry. They are here to help their senior clients with any questions about their well-being and retirement.
How Do I Learn More?
To learn more about the connection between hearing health and brain health, contact the experts at American Senior Benefits. Our licensed professionals will be happy to answer any questions you may have.