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How Hearing Loss Affects Memory and Thinking

Time to Read: 5 minutes

"Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal, according to a new study by hearing experts at Johns Hopkins"

  • Do you feel like you need more time to process conversations?
  • How does this relate to hearing?
  • What are the possible solutions?
  • Hearing aid features that can help you in noise

Do you feel like you need more time to process conversations?

Do you find it difficult to communicate in noisy environments?

Imagine you are watching television and the program stops for a commercial break.  You quickly compose a mental list of tasks and set off to get everything done before the program resumes.  Your thought process is as follows: “Go to the refrigerator, get a drink, get a snack, check e-mail, and hurry back.” However, as the word “e-mail” pops into your head, you suddenly remember that you need to notify your colleague at work; the meeting scheduled for the next morning has been postponed. The next moment you find yourself staring into the refrigerator thinking, “What am I looking for?”

If we try to focus on too many things at once or if we become distracted, information that we are trying to retain can fall off our mental radar.  Working memory represents the brain’s ability to hold and process separate items of information about what you are doing at the present moment.

How does this relate to hearing?

Working memory is highly involved in communication in complex and challenging acoustic conditions, especially for hearing-impaired persons when the auditory input is degraded. For example, while conversing in a noisy environment, people need to store information in their working memory to make sense of subsequent information.  A hearing loss may force the brain to devote too much of its energy to processing sound, and at the expense of energy spent on memory and thinking.  When rapid processing is required and the system is stressed, the effects of hearing loss become even more apparent.

What are the possible solutions?

Hearing aids helps users to “fill in the blanks”.

The aim of a hearing aid is to improve the clarity of speech in a challenging listening environment.  Hearing aids achieve this by amplifying speech sounds and minimising annoying background sounds through advanced noise reduction systems.  By improving the clarity of speech in noisy environments, this places less strain upon the brain and allows you to enjoy group conversations with minimal listening effort.

Studies have shown hearing aids can improve:

  • Quality of life
  • Working memory
  • Social and emotional function
  • Communication either one-on-one or in group settings

Hearing aid features that can help you in noise:

  • Advanced noise reduction programs in modern hearing aids provide an easier-to-listen-to signal in annoying and noisy situations.
  • Wireless connectivity allows multiple sound sources to be delivered to both ears, improving sound quality as well as the ability to discriminate speech from noise.
  • Open fittings help preserve many natural acoustic cues and likely enhance spatial fidelity.
  • Advanced Feedback management through phase cancellation facilitates more high frequency gain. I.e. helps preserve high frequency speech sounds.
  • FM systems substantially improve the signal-to-noise ratio while reducing or eliminating background noise and reverb.