Hearing Loss Negatively Impacts Healthy AgingAll aging humans will develop some degree of decline in cognitive capacity over their lifetime. Past studies have revealed how an individual’s lifestyle, genetics, environment, and anatomy affects their intellectual capabilities when they are older. Obesity, exercise, anxiety and stress, hormone levels, and even depression all affect an individual’s relative degree of age-related cognitive decline. However, past studies failed to make a connection between hearing loss and age-related intellectual capabilities.

Connection Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Recent studies done by Doctor Sara Mamo of Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore, MA, however, might indicate a link between hearing loss and age-related cognitive decline, which could make hearing health care more important to society.

Doctor Sara Mamo is a Postdoctoral Fellow and Resident at John Hopkins Department of Otolaryngology (Head/Neck Surgery). Mamo attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to complete her clinical and research training in audiology. She  is now interested in researching the aging of auditory system and speech perception deficits in older adults.

Earlier this month, Doctor Mamo presented at the New Zealand Audiological Society annual conference in Auckland, NZ. The New Zealand Audiological Society is a self-governing body that represents over 300 audiologists throughout the country. The Society is involved with University research and initiative programs and provides information and support to those in the hearing community.

Reorganization of the Auditory Cortex 

Doctor Sara Mamo’s research shows that the area of the brain dedicated to hearing (the auditory cortex) is reorganised during the early stages of hearing loss. If the hearing loss is left untreated, the reorganisation of the auditory cortex can eventually lead to a decline in brain functioning. However, if the hearing loss is treated early with hearing aids or with cochlear implants, the amount of damage to the brain may be lessened and/or stopped.

Associated Problems from Hearing Loss

Nearly 25% of all adults in North America have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss can cause a variety of safety, social, and emotional problems for adults due to feelings of isolation and unawareness of surroundings. Driving in cars, walking down streets, having dinner or telephone conversations, and even watching movies or listening to music can all become extremely difficult and frustrating. In some cases, not being able to hear can put you and others at risk of injury. Approximately 46% of Canadians between the ages of 45 to 87 have some degree of hearing loss. According to the Canadian Hearing Society, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older adults and the most widespread disability.

Despite these facts, many people with hearing problems are unable to receive hearing health care due to its inaccessibility and unaffordability, meaning a large segment of the population may be emotionally and physically suffering. Hearing health care is even more unaffordable in third-world countries.

Hearing Care Accessible to All 

At the conference, Mamo spoke about her research on community-driven initiatives to make hearing care more affordable and accessible to the general public. Mamo’s current research focuses on creating alternatives that will improve public awareness of hearing problems across the globe.

Daniel Shaw is a senior health advisor at a senior housing community. Daniel, regularly helps senior citizens find answers to their health and hearing questions. As well as to their friends and families. Daniel enjoys, the community atmosphere and loves taking walks in the evenings with some of its seniors.