Crossword puzzles, brain exercises and memory games are just some of the popular ways people try to improve their brain fitness. For people who want to make smart choices when it comes to brain health, maintaining hearing health is a great place to start. The simple act of scheduling a hearing health check-up may do more for your brain than the highest score on any “brain fitness” app!
Hearing with Your Brain
The reason is simple. Good hearing plays an important role in maintaining quality of life, including healthy cognitive function. That’s because hearing starts with the brain. It’s your brain that processes and interprets the sounds your ears detect. Your ears and your brain work together, with your brain doing the heavy lifting. For example, your brain uses the information from your two ears to orient you by figuring out which direction sound is coming from. It is in your brain that sound waves become sounds that you recognize. And your brain is what helps you focus in on a conversation and separate out unwanted noise.
When hearing is compromised, such as with hearing loss, the sound signals that your brain is used to processing are different and it takes more effort to fill in the blanks. You work harder trying to make it through the many listening experiences that fill a typical day. The extra work of keeping up with conversations in social settings or following the discussion in a business meeting can leave you tired and frustrated. You may begin to withdraw from social situations, even with family and friends.
Social Isolation and Cognitive Decline
Numerous studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can lead to isolation, depression, anxiety and frustration. Untreated hearing loss can also negatively impact speech understanding and comprehension and other cognitive activities, such as memory. A number of studies have shown correlations between untreated hearing loss in older adults and a greater risk of cognitive decline. They are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal. Social isolation and the resulting depression and health issues have long been recognized as increased risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A Wake-Up Call
Having trouble hearing but reluctant to try hearing aids? New research findings about hearing loss and healthy brain aging may provide just the incentive you need. A study lead by Professor Hélène Amieva, a leading researcher in the Neuropsychology and Epidemiology of Aging at the University of Bordeaux, France found that adults with hearing loss who actively use hearing aids can reduce the risk of cognitive decline associated with hearing loss. A person with hearing loss using hearing aids has the same risk of mental decline as a person with normal hearing. Researchers suspect that is because with better hearing, you are able to once again participate in social activities – and that stimulates your brain and helps to lower your risk of cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.
Brain First Technology
Is a yearly hearing evaluation part of your family’s good health checklist? If you haven’t had your hearing checked, you’re missing an important component of everyday health care. The upsides of regular hearing care are obvious. And when hearing loss is detected, there are many modern, discreet hearing solutions available – far more than even 10 years ago. Today’s hearing solutions feature innovative features and functionalities that make it easier to join in conversation and enjoy the world of sounds around us.
The latest innovations in hearing technology are helping to give the brain what it needs to hear. The innovative “brain first” approach of Oticon’s BrainHearing™ technology preserves as much natural sound and detail as possible so that the brain receives the quality input needed to make sense of sound.
Opening a World of Sound
Hearing instruments with BrainHearing technology, such as the new Oticon Opn™, provide sound with the clearest, purest signal possible. More sound information means that your brain doesn’t have to work as hard to understand what is being said. Opn supports the brain’s ability to make sense of sound and can significantly reduce the cognitive load on the user. In fact, Oticon Opn is the first hearing aid proven to make it easier on the brain. Tests have consistently shown that Opn increases speech understanding by 30%* with 20% less listening effort* required, which allows users to also remember 20% more** of what was said.
Oticon Opn processes sound at extreme speed to remove distracting noise, even between words. This enables users to easily follow conversation even in environments with multiple people speaking, such as crowded restaurants. The newest BrainHearing solution also connects directly to mobile phones and other external devices with just a tap of the fingertips, streaming audio directly to the hearing aids. Opn is the world’s first hearing device that is connected to the Internet of Things.
Simple First Step to Hearing Health
If you are experiencing difficulty hearing conversation or find yourself turning up the volume on the TV just a little too loud, schedule an appointment to have your hearing checked. Before your appointment, spend some time thinking about how hearing affects your life. What are the challenges you are experiencing in your home, work or social interaction and how would your life improve if you could overcome them?
When you arrive for your appointment, your hearing care professional will invite you to discuss your “hearing history” to better understand what factors have influenced your hearing and to learn about your personal hearing needs. The next step will be to perform a hearing examination. Hearing evaluations are quick and painless. If a hearing loss is detected, you work with your hearing care professional to choose the hearing solution that is best for you. Actively use your hearing aids to stay socially engaged, one of the primary ways to stimulate your brain. Like any exercise, the mental give-and-take of social interaction will help to keep your brain fit and slow down the accelerated cognitive decline linked to hearing loss.
Treating your hearing loss is not just about hearing well today, it’s about the brain fitness benefits you can experience long-term.