Let me share with you what we hear… “I don’t like wearing a mask, my glasses and hearing aids get stuck”. If we hear it once, we hear it twenty times a day. We do require our patients to wear a face covering when entering the clinic, either a mask or a shield. Jane, Beth, Jamie and I wear shields so our patients can see our faces, as visual cues are lost behind a mask. I am trying to keep us and everyone that enters safe and healthy. To learn how to properly remove your mask without flinging your hearing aids across the room, check out our YouTube page (Hearing Solutions of North Carolina) for video instructions. While you are there, we have several other videos you may find helpful.
Since the stay at home order and less group gatherings, our patients are also telling us they are not wearing their hearing aids as regularly as they did when they were going out more. “Why put them in when I have no one to talk to.” Regardless if you are home by yourself or “just” with your significant other, the benefits of improved hearing are endless.
I am very excited to share with you a study that was just released in Frontiers of Neuroscience, that finally supports the benefits of wearing hearing aids and improved cognitive function. The study is titled Cortical Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Function in Early-Stage, Mild-Moderate Hearing Loss: Evidence of Neurocognitive Benefit from Hearing Aid Use. The research was completed at the Brain and Behavior Laboratory, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Science, Center for Neuroscience Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado, in Boulder.
Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) is associated with cognitive decline, as well as structural and functional brain changes. The research completed 10 years ago by Dr. Frank Lin, Professor of Otolaryngology at John Hopkins School of Medicine, supported what we thought was occurring. Brain imaging studies revealed when the part of the brain that processes sound (temporal lobe) is deprived of auditory information neural fibers from the frontal lobe, where cognitive thought processing occurs, kick in to help out. If the frontal lobe loses neural fibers then cognitive decline begins. Cognitive decline can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As Audiologists and Hearing Healthcare Providers, we wanted to know if we help our patients improve their hearing with the use of hearing aids, can we reverse the negative effects of hearing loss and cognitive decrease. Well it looks like we can.
Age-related hearing loss (ARHL) or presbycusis affects more than 30% of adults over age 50 years and its prevalence roughly doubles with each decade of life, making it the third leading chronic health condition among aging adults. Hearing aids and cochlear implants may restore audibility in ARHL, yet less than 15% of adults who could benefit from hearing aids in the United States use them. For adults who do seek treatment, treatment is sought out late, typically 7-10 years after initial hearing loss onset.
Beyond the well-known negative effects of ARHL on communication, quality of life, physical functioning, and psychosocial status, ARHL has been also been linked to cognitive decline. To my knowledge, this is the first study to provide evidence that restored audibility with hearing aids may reverse compensatory changes in cortical resource allocation and promote more typical visual sensory processing patterns, coinciding with speech perception benefits and cognitive gains. The key findings from their extensive research are that hearing aids have to “well-fit”. Verification measure must be completed to ensure the hearing aid wearer is receiving proper audibility. Verification is part of every hearing aid fitting in our office.
The second key finding is that hearing aids must be worn. The average wear time for the group studies was just under 10 hours a day. So our message to our patients is: “wear your hearing aids!” The short term benefit is you can hear better now, but we cannot overlook the long term benefits of amplification…keeping our brains sharp.
“As a group, clinical treatment with well-fit amplification reversed cross-modal recruitment of auditory cortex for visual processing in the ARHL group following 6 months of hearing aid use, coinciding with gains in auditory speech perception abilities and improvements in global cognitive function, executive function, processing speed, and visual working memory performance”. I think that is pretty impressive stuff. I encourage you to read the article for yourself. (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2020.00093/full#h8)
If we can help or you would like to schedule an appointment to improve your hearing (and brain) ability, give Beth or Jamie a call at (704) 212-2376. Don’t forget to visit our website: www.hearingsolutionsofnc.com and like us on Facebook. Jane and I look forward to seeing you soon.