Those who listen poorly are at greater risk of suffering from dementia – 09/18/2023 – Luciano Melo

Those who listen poorly are at greater risk of suffering from dementia – 09/18/2023 – Luciano Melo

We probably all know someone over 60 who hears poorly; aging-related hearing loss is to blame. It is a disorder that becomes more common as we age; It affects just over 40% of people over 50 years of age and around 70% of people over 70 years of age.

Its action progressively degrades the discrimination of high-pitched sounds and often corrupts speech understanding. For the majority of those affected, this is just one of the many stages of aging. However, for those most seriously impacted, it is a serious problem, as it becomes a barrier against communication and socialization. In this case, loneliness and sadness remain as obvious products. The source of the problem is in the cochlea, a structure in the ear involved in converting sound into electrical nerve impulses. This electricity is transmitted to the brain and becomes the raw material to be transformed into our listening experience.

It has recently been discovered that age-related hearing loss is an independent risk factor for dementia. It is estimated that 9% of people with dementia are this way because they have severe hearing loss. This means that poor listening often causes or accelerates Alzheimer’s disease. I just added a new reason for you to be even more worried about your aunt, who screams on the phone and no longer understands you very well. Let me calm you down, the use of electronic devices that help hearing possibly reduces the risk of cognitive loss. It would be nice to convince her to use one. Okay, you now have practical information, you may even be satisfied and end reading here.

If you haven’t given up, it’s because your curiosity drives you and I imagine you want to understand how something specifically wrong with the ear causes brain degeneration. For now, we don’t have a definitive answer, but we have very good theories that help us better understand the vulnerability of the brain and how to protect this organ.

Social seclusion is a risk factor for dementia, equivalent in weight to a sedentary lifestyle and smoking. Therefore, the social impact caused by deafness, whether partial or complete, poses a threat to the decline of intellect. But there are other complementary explanations.

It is possible that there is a unique biological trigger for both hearing loss and brain degeneration. If true, the same process that corrodes the brain destroys the structures of the ear. However, to date, no evidence has been found of the existence of a destructive basis common to the cochlea and brain cortex. If there is no degenerative rhythm, there must be a predisposition within the neurons for an ear problem to cause great cognitive damage.

Alzheimer’s disease, in its early stages, affects certain brain areas related to hearing. This degeneration causes something we call auditory cognitive dysfunction, a type of central (brain) deafness that worsens any degree, if any, of peripheral (ear) deafness.

A heard sound is associated with data stored in memory to be pertinently understood and identified. Alzheimer’s disease, in all its stages, is marked by preferential damage to the memory cortex, therefore hindering the interpretation of auditory information to a certain extent.

If there is cochlear deterioration concomitantly with the first damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, there will be greater work for the brain to understand what is already muffled from the ears. As a result, excessive work is required to catalog the sound, and this seems to cause destructive stress. Alzheimer’s disease is not necessarily the only factor that predisposes the intellect to further decline under the damaging effects of decreased hearing. Other changes, some not yet named, may also be. There are studies in humans and animals that show a correlation between hearing loss and atrophy of brain areas critical for memory.

The last endpoint is close. As you, the most curious reader, have come this far resisting the urge to run out to help your aunt, I will bring you yet another piece of practical information. I swear, this late warning is not the work of me to punish those in a hurry, those who abandoned reading, but the result of a late update.

The text was almost ready when I read an important study. I summarize it below in a short sentence: noise-induced otological damage affects the hippocampus, a fundamental brain region for the formation of memories. In other words, ear injuries caused by high volumes of sound have a similar impact to hearing loss common in the elderly. I suggest paying attention to headphones.

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