Our brains gradually shrink as we age. It’s inevitable. But this brain tissue loss occurs faster in older adults with hearing loss according to a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the American National Institute on Aging.
Analysis of MRIs from the longitudinal study revealed that those with impaired hearing experienced more than an additional cubic centimetre of brain tissue shrinkage each year compared with those with normal hearing.
Not surprisingly, the areas of the brain most affected are those responsible for processing sound and speech. Researcher Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. says “shrinkage in those areas might simply be a consequence of an ‘impoverished’ auditory cortex, which could become atrophied from lack of stimulation.”
Lin went on to give some urgency to treating hearing loss sooner rather than later, before these potential brain structural changes take place.