The difference between hearing and understanding

Alzheimer's, Dementia & Hearing Loss

Did you know that Hearing aids can reduce the effects of dementia & Alzheimer’s.  Adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than adults whose hearing is normal. Degraded hearing may force the brain to devote too much of its energy to processing sound.

A 2010 study by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging showed that individuals with hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s than those with normal hearing. The correlation becomes more prevalent as the length and severity of hearing loss increase, regardless of other factors, including blood pressure, age, sex, and race. This link increases the importance of regular hearing tests. If you are showing signs of memory loss, slower thought processing and difficulty understanding speech then please have your hearing checked by The Hearing Rehabilitation Center.

Studies on Brain Loss

126 participants from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging underwent yearly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track brain changes for up to 10 years. Participants whose hearing was already impaired at the start of the study had accelerated rates of brain tissue loss compared to those with normal hearing.3Additionally, those with impaired hearing lost more than an additional cubic centimetre of brain tissue each year (that’s the size of a sugar cube every year!!) compared with those with normal hearing.

Those with impaired hearing also had significantly more shrinkage in particular regions, including the superior, middle and inferior temporal gyri. These are brain structures responsible for processing sound and speech. Shrinkage in those areas might simply be a consequence of an “impoverished” auditory cortex, which could shrink from lack of stimulation. These structures don’t work in isolation, and their responsibilities don’t end at sorting out sounds and language. The middle and inferior temporal gyri play roles in memory and sensory integration and have been shown to be involved in the early stages of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.


3 Association of hearing impairment with brain volume changes in older adults. Lin FR1, Ferrucci L2, An Y3, Goh JO4, Doshi J5, Metter EJ2, Davatzikos C5, Kraut MA6, Resnick SM3. Neuroimage. 2014 Apr 15;90:84-92. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.12.059. Epub 2014 Jan 9.