Hearing loss tied to brain shrinkage in seniors, study suggests

Hearing loss is often considered a natural part of growing older, but a new study suggests that it may have a more significant impact than previously thought. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently found that seniors who have trouble hearing are also more likely to experience brain shrinkage at a faster rate compared to those with no hearing troubles.

The findings come from analysis of data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, which dates back more than 50 years. Researchers looked at MRIs from study participants and saw that subjects who reported issues with their hearing lost about 1 cubic centimeter more each year compared to seniors who had better auditory performance. Scientists say the results, which were published in the journal Neuroimage, suggest that hearing loss should be addressed as soon as possible.

“If you want to address hearing loss well, you want to do it sooner rather than later,” study leader  Dr. Frank Lin said. “If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we’re seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place.”

This certainly is not the first time that hearing loss has been tied to an issue that could derail health retirement living. A separate 2012 study from Johns Hopkins found that hearing loss may be tied to an elevated risk of cognitive decline. The trial, also conducted by Dr. Lin, involved nearly 2,000 adults with an average age of 77, found that the annual rate of cognitive decline was about 41 percent higher in adults with hearing loss. According to The New York Times, approximately two-third of adults 70 and older have hearing loss.