When we think about hearing loss, it’s only natural that we first think about how it affects our ears and our hearing, since that’s where the most obvious changes happen first. How our ear and hearing health affects our quality of life and lifestyle can be extensive and varied. However, it’s important to recognize that hearing loss can affect the brain, as well, in a variety of ways.

For that reason, treating hearing loss is even more important because of the ways that it can support the brain. Here, we’ll look at a few ways that treating your hearing loss is good for your mind and your mental health.

How the brain responds to hearing loss

Studies have shown that hearing loss, especially untreated hearing loss, can affect the brain in a variety of ways. One of those ways is through its neuroplasticity, which its itis ability to form new neural connections, adapting to change and helping us better deal with new concepts and challenges.

Studies have found that as hearing deteriorates, the parts of the brain that process sound and speech aren’t getting input and aren’t getting stimulated. Just like muscles, parts of the brain that aren’t in use can start to deteriorate.

When these parts of the brain start to deteriorate, the brain uses other parts of the brain to pick up the slack. While this might sound like the brain adapting in a positive way, the load on those parts of the brain can become too much, which can lead to poor concentration, slower processing powers and cognitive decline over time.

The use of a hearing aid or other hearing loss treatments makes sure that these parts of your brain are still getting the input that they need so you can still process sounds mentally as you should.

How hearing loss and dementia are linked

People who experience hearing loss are at a greater risk of developing dementia. This risk of exacerbated by not having your hearing loss treated. This may be, in part, due to how the brain responds to hearing loss by reorganizing which parts of the brain are used to process sound and speech.

The fatigue, slower processing and degeneration of the brain cells could all be tightly linked to the increased risk of dementia. Isolation is another major risk factor in dementia. As the social parts of the brain are used less, this also contributes to cognitive decline that can lead to dementia.

It’s important to recognize this since untreated hearing loss has been very strongly linked to isolation. People who have untreated hearing loss are more likely to avoid communication and crowds because being unable to hear and understand speech, especially when directly aimed at them, can be very frustrating and stressful.

Treatment and prevention

When it comes to hearing loss, there are three types: conductive, sensorineural and mixed. Conductive hearing loss is when something is blocking the air and can often be reversed, such as by removing earwax or using decongestants for a fluid build-up. Sensorineural is when conditions affect the ability for the ear to transmit sounds to the brain, often due to the degeneration or damage of the tiny hair cells on the inner ear. 

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, meaning there is no way to reverse it. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural. For that reason, prevention is almost always more recommended by your ENT doctor to stop it from happening as best as possible. Methods of prevention can involve measures like using hearing protection to make sure you’re not exposed to excessive levels of noise.

If it is too late to prevent any hearing loss, then your ENT doctor will be able to diagnose it through a hearing test. From there, if there are no ways for immediate treatment then they will instead look at devices that can help you. Hearing aids can help amplify sounds and cut out noise that may drown out those sounds so that you can better understand speech, environmental noise and generally improve your hearing health and quality of life.

These treatments can ensure that the parts of the brain that process sound are being worked out to prevent decline and can also help you avoid the isolation that often comes with untreated hearing loss.

Talk to your ENT doctor about treating your hearing loss today

If you think that you are experiencing hearing loss or have been diagnosed with it and want to make sure that you get it treated, then your ENT doctor can help. Get in touch with ENT Physicians Inc. and learn more about how we can help by calling us at (419) 318-4987.