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Use it or lose it: Brain atrophy

Contributed by , president of Healthy Hearing |

A brain atrophy, or cerebral atrophy, takes place when the connections between cells in the brain are damaged, or the cells in general are lost. This condition can be caused by a number of issues, including Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Huntington's disease and epilepsy. However, it can also be attributed to old age. This type of brain damage typically gets worse over time, but the ailment varies between each person depending on the location, cause and type of atrophy. For people with hearing loss, a brain atrophy can get increasingly severe because individuals are required to use more effort in order to comprehend speech compared to a person with normal hearing.

brain atrophy, use it or lose it, hearing loss, hearing and the brainAccording to a study released in The Journal of Neuroscience, people who had hearing loss obtained a lower density of gray matter in the auditory areas of the brain, giving evidence to the age-old saying "use it or lose it." While many people are aware of the need for hearing aids to understand speech, these devices are also important for proper brain function.

"As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered not only to improve hearing but to preserve the brain." Jonathan Peelle, lead author of the study, told Newswise. "People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences."

In the study, researchers found that people with hearing loss had less brain activity when focusing on complex sentences compared to others. Similarly, the areas of the brain that are most responsible for auditory response had less gray matter, which proves that people with hearing loss may experience accelerated brain atrophy. Because the condition affects the speed at which the brain processes speech, these two issues could be linked.

Symptoms of brain atrophy

There are many symptoms of brain atrophy to be aware of, as it can affect the entire brain or just one part of the organ. You may suffer from dementia or memory loss, lack of motor control, seizures, or difficulty with speech, comprehension or reading. However, you may also experience generalized signs of a cerebral atrophy as well, which could appear every once and a while or on a daily basis. These include changes in mood, personality or behavior, disorientation, learning impairments, memory loss, difficulty with judgment or abstract thinking and challenges with comprehension and thinking.

Treatment of brain atrophy

Since brain atrophy is the loss or damage of brain cells, there is no treatment available to cure this complication. This means that the illness must be prevented with use of hearing aids and an active, healthy lifestyle. However, there are options to slow the damage and improve physical ability that is hindered by brain atrophy.

This shows just more reason why treating hearing loss should not be overlooked. Hearing aid technology has improved drastically over the years, and individuals with hearing loss can find a device that best suits their daily activities easily. If you find yourself having difficulty understanding speech or comprehending conversations, a visit to the audiologist may be in order.

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