Daily Health Headlines

Hearing Loss Tied to Faster Brain Shrinkage With Age

👤by Amy Norton 0 comments 🕔Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

TUESDAY, Jan. 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults with impaired hearing may have a faster rate of brain shrinkage as they age, a new study suggests.

A number of studies have found that older people with hearing loss tend to have a quicker decline in their memory and thinking skills, compared to those with normal hearing.

"We've known that common, age-related hearing loss is associated with cognitive [mental] decline. The question is, why?" said Dr. Frank Lin, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the lead researcher on the new study.

The findings, he said, offer one potential explanation: Older adults with hearing problems lose brain volume more quickly than their peers with normal hearing.

The precise reason is not clear, and the real-life impact is unknown. The study did not test participants' actual mental ability.

But the "biggest question," Lin said, is whether treating hearing impairment can slow changes in brain structure and, more importantly, delay dementia.

He and his colleagues are now planning a trial to test that idea.

The current findings are based on 126 adults aged 56 to 86 who underwent yearly MRI scans to track brain-tissue changes for up to a decade. At the time of the first scan, they also had a physical and a hearing test. Of participants, 51 showed some degree of hearing loss -- mostly the mild variety where people have trouble hearing soft voices, for instance.

Lin's team found that older adults with hearing problems showed a faster decline in brain volume over the years -- especially in brain regions involved in processing sound and speech.

The study, published online Jan. 9 in the journal NeuroImage, cannot prove that hearing loss directly causes brain-tissue loss. But the basic "use it or lose it" principle may apply, according to Lin.

"The ear is no longer sending clear messages to the brain," he said. Without that input, sound-processing brain regions may change in structure.

What's more, Lin said, those brain areas have other jobs, too. Among other things, they play a role in memory and processing information other than sounds.

A hearing expert not involved in the study said it's "interesting," and raises the question of whether treating hearing impairment can prevent brain-tissue loss or slow mental decline.

"But we need a study to test that, and that study has yet to be done," said Dr. Ian Storper, an otologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

Even though researchers have found a link between hearing loss and mental decline, Storper noted, "that doesn't prove causation." Both hearing loss and brain-volume loss are common parts of aging, and there are many other variables that may be related to both, Storper added.

Lin's team did account for some other health factors -- like whether people smoked, or had high blood pressure or diabetes. And there was still a connection between impaired hearing and greater brain-volume loss.

But Lin agreed that what's ultimately needed is a trial testing whether hearing loss treatment slows mental decline.

"In the end," Lin said, "what everyone cares about is, what can we do about it?"

There are, of course, already reasons to treat hearing loss, Storper said. In some cases, treatment can be as easy as removing impacted ear wax, he noted.

But often, older adults need a hearing aid or assistive devices that make it easier to hear in specific situations -- while talking on the phone or watching TV, for example.

According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging, almost one-third of Americans aged 65 to 74 have at least mild hearing loss -- as do nearly half of those aged 75 and older.

If impaired hearing is one contributor to mental decline and dementia, Lin said, then treating it could have a big impact on public health.

Article Credits / Source

Amy Norton / HealthDay

Amy Norton wrote this story for HealthDay. HealthDay provides up to the minute breaking health news. Click here to view this full article from HealthDay.

SOURCES: Frank Lin, M.D. Ph.D., assistant professor, otolaryngology - head and neck surgery, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Ian Storper, M.D., otologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Jan. 9, 2014, NeuroImage, online

View More Articles From Amy Norton 🌎View Article Website

Sponsored Product

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

People who have trouble sleeping typically have low levels of melatonin, so melatonin supplements seem like a logical fix for insomnia. There is a high demand for sleep aids, especially in the U.S. The National Health Interview Survey done in 2002, and again in 2007, found 1.6 million US adults were using complementary and alternative sleep aids for insomnia. Lunar Sleep was a top choice. Use Promo Code: Sleep2014 and only pay $1.95 S&H.

Get Lunar Sleep for $1.95

More Hearing Articles

Study Suggests Genetic Link to Middle Ear Infections

Study Suggests Genetic Link to Middle Ear Infections0

FRIDAY, Oct. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've found a potential genetic link to a child's higher risk of middle ear infections. These painful infections are the most frequent reason kids are given antibiotics, according to ...

New Clues to Age-Related Hearing Loss

New Clues to Age-Related Hearing Loss0

THURSDAY, Oct. 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- When background noise makes it hard to carry on a conversation, many older people chalk it up to hearing loss. But a new, small study finds that the problem may not just be in your ear, but also in your ...

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's Ear0

Ear pain can be caused by conditions within the ear, the ear canal, or it may affect visible portions of the ear. Infections of the ear include infections of the middle ear (otitis media), outer ear (swimmer's ear or otitis externa). An earache also ...

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss0

Everyone. No matter how old or young you are, too much exposure to loud noise can permanently damage your hearing. Whether it's the screech of a chain saw, the sudden blast of a hunting rifle, or the roar of a lawn mower, exposure to loud sounds can ...

Meniere Disease

Meniere Disease0

Meniere's disease does not have a cure yet, but your doctor might recommend some of the treatments below to help you cope with the condition. Medications. The most disabling symptom of an attack of Meniere's disease is dizziness. Prescription ...

View More Hearing Articles

0 Comments

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest health news as it breaks!

Your information will not be shared with anyone!