Don't ignore hearing loss, warns expert

WHY YOU SHOULD GET HELP: Having a hearing aid fitted will help the brain maintain active cognitive functions when it comes to recognising sounds.
PHOTO: Don't ignore hearing loss, warns expert

It is a hard truth and an inevitable one: Our brains are bound to shrink as we age.

This is a change often linked to poor memory and the onset of cognitive dysfunctions like dementia.

This shrinkage may be quicker in older adults with untreated hearing loss, according to results from a recent study.

The study, which involved researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging in the United States, tracked the brain changes in 126 adults - both with and without hearing loss - for up to 10 years.

Those whose hearing was already impaired at the start of the study were found to have accelerated rates of brain atrophy, compared to those with normal hearing.

The researchers said the brain structures responsible for processing sound and speech do not work in isolation, and their responsibilities do not end at merely sorting out sounds and languages.

"This study gives some urgency to treating hearing loss rather than ignoring it," said Frank Lin, one of the researchers in the study.

"If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we're seeing on magnetic resonance imaging, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place."

He added: "If you want to address hearing loss well, you want to do it sooner rather than later."

To protect your hearing, avoid loud noise whenever possible and let your ears take a break.

One useful tip is to always apply the 60/60 rule when using your iPod or similar devices: Avoid listening to music at a volume no more than 60 per cent of the maximum volume on the device and for no longer than 60 minutes.

If you find that you are losing some of your hearing, nip the problem in the bud and have hearing aids fitted.

This helps the brain maintain active cognitive functions when it comes to recognising sounds, be it the humming of a refrigerator or the singing of birds outside the window.

Some symptoms which point to hearing-related problems include a ringing, buzzing or muffled sound in your ears, difficulty in understanding speech and not being sure of the direction the sound is coming from.

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