For News-Herald Media
August 18, 2014
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 and depression.
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May 22, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Children with profound deafness who receive a cochlear implant had as much as five times the risk of having delays in areas of working memory, controlled attention, planning and conceptual learning as children with normal hearing, according to Indiana University research published May 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery.
The authors evaluated 73 children implanted before age 7 and 78 children with normal hearing to determine the risk of deficits in executive functioning behaviors in everyday life.
Executive functioning, a set of mental processes involved in regulating and directing thinking and behavior, is important for focusing and attaining goals in daily life. All children in the study had average to above-average IQ scores. The results, reported in "Neurocognitive Risk in Children With Cochlear Implants," are the first from a large-scale study to compare real-world executive functioning behavior in children with cochlear implants and those with normal hearing.
A cochlear implant device consists of an external component that processes sound into electrical signals that are sent to an internal receiver and electrodes that stimulate the auditory nerve. Although the device restores the ability to perceive many sounds to children who are born deaf, some details and nuances of hearing are lost in the process.
First author William Kronenberger, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine and a specialist in neurocognitive and executive function testing, said that delays in executive functioning have been commonly reported by parents and others who work with children with cochlear implants. Based on these observations, his group sought to evaluate whether elevated risks of delays in executive functioning in children with cochlear implants exist, and what components of executive functioning were affected.
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