Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that people with hearing loss suffer gray matter atrophy in the auditory parts of the brain. Leas author of the study Jonathan Peelle, PhD, states that "Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears, but also helps your brain perform at its best." The study goes on to say that as we age we should have our hearing monitored by a physician or audiologist and report any difficulty hearing or understanding speech.KJ
Mild hearing loss linked to brain atrophy in older adults
Early intervention could prevent slide toward speech comprehension difficulties
PHILADELPHIA – A new study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows that declines in hearing ability may accelerate gray mater atrophy in auditory areas of the brain and increase the listening effort necessary for older adults to successfully comprehend speech.
When a sense (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch) is altered, the brain reorganizes and adjusts. In the case of poor hearers, researchers found that the gray matter density of the auditory areas was lower in people with decreased hearing ability, suggesting a link between hearing ability and brain volume.
"As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the brain," said lead author Jonathan Peelle, PhD, research associate in the Department of Neurology. "People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences."
In a pair of studies, researchers measured the relationship of hearing acuity to the brain, first measuring the brain’s response to increasingly complex sentences and then measuring cortical brain volume in auditory cortex. Older adults (60-77 years of age) with normal hearing for their age were evaluated to determine whether normal variations in hearing ability impacted the structure or function of the network of areas in the brain supporting speech comprehension. Continue reading