Hearing loss and cognitive load

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By Joe Baker, MA, CCC-A, Hearing Science

As we all know, different centers of the brain perform different functions. But when we experience hearing loss, these brain centers can become rewired to help make up for the deficiency in hearing. This affects our cognitive load and can lead to stress, anxiety, and even cognitive decline.

For example, at a dinner party we may have difficulty with background noise so we cannot make out what two people are saying. The language center of our brain kicks in to help us determine exactly what was said, creating an extra cognitive load and causing us to miss the next sentence completely.

Or perhaps we “hear” better when we can see the face of the person speaking. That’s because our brain’s visual center is kicking in to pick up nonverbal clues, including lip reading and the evaluation of facial expressions. More cognitive load.

Driving a car—if we have difficulty with higher frequencies—we may hear someone say, “Watch out for the *at in the road.” Our brain immediately begins to engage: “Did they say hat? It couldn’t be bat, could it? Oh, there it is; they said cat.”

This effort requires a lot of focus and attention, creating stress and anxiety.

The good news is this rewiring of the brain can be reversed with amplification. Just as our brain adapts to hearing loss, it can readapt to hearing aids. This reduces cognitive load and cognitive decline, and allows us to reengage with people and social activities we once enjoyed.

This New Year’s, if you are resolving to improve your health, consider an annual hearing test, especially if you’re over age 50. It’s one of the best resolutions you can make to monitor and improve your overall health and well-being and avoid cognitive decline.

Hearing Science is located within the Crocker Office Park at 815 Crocker Road. Appointments can be scheduled conveniently online or by calling 440-438-3401. Visit HearSci.com for more information.