We have known for some time that part of the aging process involves the brain shrinking. What we are learning now is that those with hearing loss experience a faster rate of brain shrinkage than those without hearing impairments.

The research was conducted by John Hopkins University in Maryland and published in the journal Neurolmage. It focused on 126 patients between the ages of 56 and 86. Each year during the 10-year study, the participants went through testing, including a MRI scan that measured brain changes and hearing tests.

Not only did the participants with hearing loss experience a faster rate of brain shrinkage, they also lost a significantly larger amount of brain tissue each year than those without impairment. The areas of the brain that were most impacted by the hearing loss included the parts of the brain that process speech and sound, but also those associated with memory and cognition. These are the same areas of the brain that are often involved in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Just one more reason why you should address any hearing difficulties you may experience sooner rather than later. With early intervention, it is likely possible to prevent the structural changes in the brain that are caused by hearing loss.

By Ramie A Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT