Hearing loss in older adults might also cause accelerated gray matter atrophy, or a loss in brain volume, a new study shows. This indicates that devices such as hearing aids could be more important than previously thought.
When investigators studied MRI scans of older individuals (ages 60-77) with hearing loss, they noticed reduced volume of gray matter in the auditory cortex. These individuals also displayed less brain activity on functional MRI scans when listening to complex sentences, researchers found. This suggests a connection between hearing ability and brain volume, say researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
“As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the brain,” said the study’s lead author, Jonathan Peelle, Ph.D. “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”
The study is published in the most recent issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.