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Beyond sound: The link between hearing loss and cognitive health

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Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:40 am, Mon Jun 16, 2014.

(BPT) - Difficulty hearing may be more than just a quality-of-life issue. Growing evidence indicates that untreated hearing loss in older adults can lead to other health conditions, and one of the most concerning is cognitive decline.

In fact, a Johns Hopkins Study found that cognitive diminishment was 41 percent more likely in seniors with hearing loss. Because maintaining the health of the brain is such a priority for older people, hearing difficulties should not be ignored.

Hearing and the brain

To hear well, the brain and ears work together. Sound is heard through the ears and then the brain translates the noise so you can understand what it is. This means you not only hear language, music and traffic, but you comprehend these are all different sounds with different meanings.

With untreated hearing loss, the signals to your brain are weaker, and therefore you have to think much harder to understand the noises around you. When the brain is using more cognitive resources to understand sounds, other brain activities like memory and comprehension can suffer, often causing cognitive decline.

Effects of untreated hearing loss

In addition to diminished mental health, untreated hearing loss can lead to numerous health conditions:

* Mental fatigue and stress

* Poor memory

* Concentration difficulty

* Social withdrawal

* Depression

Just like maintaining muscle mass or speaking a foreign language, hearing health should be approached with a “use it or lose it” mentality. Audiologists agree that early intervention is key because when the brain doesn’t hear certain noises for a long time, it can actually lose the ability to comprehend those sounds. For example, the longer the brain is deprived of hearing high-frequency sounds, the more difficult it will be to process those sounds, even if corrective measures are taken.

Taking action

If you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, visit www.Starkey.com for a free and simple online hearing test. For a complete evaluation of your hearing, visit a licensed hearing care professional in your area.

An estimated 26.7 million Americans ages 50 and older suffer from hearing loss, yet only one in seven uses a hearing aid, according to a Johns Hopkins study published in “The Hearing Review.” After a professional diagnosis, your audiologist can help you learn your options for hearing better, including modern, discreet hearing aids.

Invisible hearing aids

Many of today’s hearing aids cannot be seen, meaning no one but you will know you’re wearing one. For example, invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) are about the size of a jelly bean and are custom fit to your ear canal. Another option is the mini receiver-in-canal (RIC) device, which resembles the shape of a traditional hearing aid but is half the size. The mini RIC hides behind a person’s ear, making it nearly invisible.

Even though the size of today’s hearing aids has dramatically decreased, wearers enjoy high performance and power, including many smart features. For example, the Starkey Halo hearing aids are engineered to work with your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices, so video chat, phone calls, music and more stream directly into your hearing aids without creating any background buzzing or whistling.

From quality of life to cognitive health, the benefits of hearing well go beyond sound. To learn more about hearing loss and different hearing aid options, visit www.InvisibleHearingAid.com.

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