From Infants to Adults, Hearing is key to brain health

With May being Better Hearing and Speech Month, let’s look at hearing and speech concerns in multiple generations. It is important to ensure any hearing impairment is addressed early for both children and adults. For children, early intervention allows their brain to grow and avoid lifelong effects. In adults, addressing concerns helps their brain to stay young and active.

Hearing Screening

Initial hearing screening is often conducted at the hospital. About 1 in 500 babies are born deaf or hard of hearing. This initial screening helps identify any issues for early treatment. The sooner a family receives support, the less likely a child will grow to have developmental delays in speech, language, cognition, social, and learning skills.

Early Intervention Pays Off

If your child is showing any signs of slower speech, hearing, or swallowing/feeding development, now is the time to seek medical advice. The sooner these concerns are addressed, the better chance of a child not having lifelong effects. Seeking treatment early can:

  • Help a child be successful. Treatment at any age is a smart choice, but younger children seem to have greater success stories.
  • Save money. Younger children can often see impacts in fewer sessions. This not only equates to out-of-pocket savings but also reduced time spent at appointments.  
  • Prepare a child for school. The first three years of life set the foundation for communication skills. Addressing any issues during this time will help prepare a child for kindergarten and further academic success.

Hearing Loss in Adults

As we age, the loss of hearing can be linked with other concerns: walking problems, falls, and even dementia. A John Hopkins study tracked 639 adults over 12 years found that a mild hearing loss as much as doubled dementia risk. Greater hearing loss had an even greater risk: with moderate loss tripling the risk and severe hearing impairment resulting in five times greater risk of dementia. The increased risk of dementia seems to be largely connected to two factors:

  1. Brain scans during the study showed a connection between hearing lost and a faster rate of atrophy in the brain.
  2. When you suffer from hearing loss, you begin to disengage in conversation. When you don’t desire to interact with people, you become socially isolated.

Many people begin to stumble and fall more with hearing loss. This is because as you walk, you naturally listen and pick up on subtle cues that affect your balance. The hearing loss begins to mute and eventually eliminate these signals. As your brain subconsciously works harder to maintain balance, it can become overworked and negatively affect the mental processing needed to walk safely.

Addressing Hearing Loss

If you are seeing signs of hearing loss, see your doctor. Technology advancements have made hearing aids much more accessible and less noticeable. They have become quite user friendly. Addressing any hearing loss will help your brain to stay young and function better. If you or a family member are experiencing hearing loss or speech delays, reach out to Healthstar Physicians. Our multi-specialty physicians group has 14 locations in five counties including three after hours clinics. We live and work right here in East Tennessee. Reach out to us and set up an appointment. We accept most forms of health insurance. Contact us to find out more.