Did you know that hearing and vision are connected to brain health? Recent studies show that taking care of your hearing and vision can actually slow cognitive decline by 50-75%! It is important to prioritize these areas of your health which can often go unnoticed for quite some time. In fact, hearing loss is one of the most common health issues people experience today yet it is undertreated. Over 48 million people have some degree of hearing loss but it takes an average of 7 years to address symptoms. Being proactive about your vision and hearing health can protect your brain and overall wellness.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline
Research shows that there is a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Impaired hearing can increase the risk of experiencing cognitive decline and developing conditions like Alzheimer’s. A significant study that investigated this link was published in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association in 2019. Researchers evaluated the hearing and cognitive capacities for 10,107 people over an 8-year period. Participants did not have any cognitive impairments at the onset of the study. After an 8 year period, researchers found that cognitive decline was:
- 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss
- 42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss
- 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss
This highlights that people with severe hearing loss were more than twice as likely to experience cognitive decline, revealing a significant correlation. These findings support extensive research that has established hearing loss as a risk factor for declining brain health.
Vision, Hearing, and Cognitive Decline
Further research also shows a link between vision, hearing, and cognitive decline. This includes a study conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester (U.K.). The study involved assessing the hearing and cognitive capacities of 2,000 seniors. This data was collected every two years for 18 years as part of the University of Manchester’s Health and Retirement Study. Researchers found that cognitive decline was 75% slower among people who treated their hearing loss by wearing hearing aids – the most common hearing loss treatment.
This study also included looking at the impact of vision on brain health. Researchers did this by comparing participants who had cataract surgery and those who did not. This included over 5,000 people: 2,068 received cataract surgery and 3,636 did not have cataracts or surgery. Researchers found for people who had cataract surgery, cognitive decline continued to slow down over 13 years. OVer time, this improved brain health as cognitive functions were measured to be equal to those who did not have cataracts. Research findings also included that cataract surgery can slow cognitive decline by 50%. This study shows that addressing hearing and vision impairments helps protect brain health.
Impact of Vision & Hearing Loss on the Brain
Hearing and vision impairments can impact the brain in a few ways that affect cognitive functions. The brain receives less auditory and visual input which results in reduced stimulation, this can lead to:
- brain atrophy: the parts of the brian that help process sensory information receive less input. This reduces the activity in these areas which can shrink these portions of the brain and contribute to weakening cognitive functions.
- cognitive overload: other areas of the brain can try to intervene to compensate for vision impairments and hearing loss. This overworks the brain and can lead to cognitive overload, also contributing to cognitive decline.
- social withdrawal: a major outcome of hearing and vision loss is social withdrawal. Navigating communication, social settings, and activities often requires more work while dealing with the symptoms of hearing and vision impairment. This causes people to avoid this as much as possible which includes spending less time with others and not participating in social life. Social withdrawal in addition to taking a toll on mental health by contributing to depressive symptoms, also results in less stimulation for the brain. This can affect cognitive functions and contribute to cognitive decline.
Taking care of hearing and vision health is an important way to decrease your risk of experiencing cognitive decline.
Contact us today to learn more and to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. We look forward to helping you prioritize your health and wellness!