How hearing loss affects the brain - Ottawa Hears

How hearing loss affects the brain - Ottawa Hears

A Review of Recent Research Findings

Hearing loss in adults is not merely a decline in auditory ability; it significantly impacts brain function and overall well-being. This review synthesizes current research findings on adult-onset hearing loss, emphasizing the need for early detection and treatment.

Key Findings:

  1. Brain Reorganization in Mild Hearing Loss
    Campbell and Sharma (2013) found that even mild hearing loss in adults leads to compensatory changes in the brain’s cortical resource allocation. This reorganization of brain function indicates a profound response to even minor auditory deficits.
  2. Rapid Brain Changes After Hearing Loss
    Subsequent research by Campbell and Sharma (2014) demonstrated that these brain changes occur within months of hearing loss onset, suggesting a rapid adaptive response of the brain to auditory deprivation.
  3. Restoration of Brain Function Through Treatment
    Glick and Sharma (2020) provided evidence that treatment of hearing loss can lead to a restoration of more typical brain functioning, emphasizing the plasticity and potential reversibility of these changes with appropriate intervention.
  4. Cognitive Function Improvement
    In their study, Glick and Sharma (2020) also noted improvements in cognitive functions following treatment for hearing loss, linking auditory health directly to cognitive well-being.
  5. Enhancement of Overall Well-being
    Livingston et al. (2020) discussed the broader impacts of hearing loss treatment, including enhancements in functional outcomes and general well-being, in their comprehensive report in Lancet.

Food for Thought:

Glick (2023) highlighted the discrepancy in routine health screenings, noting that unlike other standard screenings in midlife, hearing assessments are often neglected. This oversight is concerning, given that auditory deprivation effects may commence before detectable changes on a conventional audiogram. This raises crucial questions:

  • Could advanced neuroimaging techniques identify early indicators of auditory deprivation more effectively?
  • Considering that many adults delay treatment for hearing loss for over a decade, is this delay leading to irreversible brain reorganization?

These considerations suggest the need for a reassessment of our approach to hearing health, particularly in the context of midlife preventative care.

At Ottawa Hears Audiology, we provide top-quality audiological care with comprehensive hearing assessments, including advanced Speech-In-Noise testing, to ensure the best hearing health outcomes for our patients.

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Campbell, J., & Sharma, A. (2013). Compensatory changes in cortical resource allocation in adults with hearing loss. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 7, 71.

Campbell, J., & Sharma, A. (2014). Cross-modal re-organization in adults with early stage hearing loss. PloS One, 9(2), e90594.

Glick, H., & Sharma, A. (2020). Cortical Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Function in Early-Stage, Mild-Moderate Hearing Loss: Evidence of Neurocognitive Benefit From Hearing Aid Use. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14, 93.

Livingston, G., et al. (2020). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. Lancet, 396(10248), 413–446.

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