Brain and Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

By Morgan Leppla

Bodies are complex systems, composed of many minute details. The human anatomy serves to remind us of the intricacies of our world. This June for Brain and Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) invites you to join us in celebrating one of the most mysterious and fascinating part of the body: the brain.

For one to grasp the physiological complexity of being  human, one ought to understand how their body’s many systems work in tandem. For example, each person’s brain depends on stimulation to keep it in tip-top shape and and their bodies depend on their brains to function as they are intended to.

This is clearly a stripped down explanation of the role brains play. Of course an organism’s structure can be broken down into smaller and smaller parts, so let’s focus on one of special importance to us here at HHF, hearing.

Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins University reports in 2014 that hearing loss affects brain structure, and specifically accelerates brain tissue loss. The study was conducted over a 10-year period with a sampling of people which included those with substantial hearing loss and those with normal hearing.  After analyzing years of magnetic resonance imaging scans, his conclusions suggest people with substantial hearing loss show higher rates of brain atrophy. Lin explains brain shrinkage could be the result of an “‘impoverished’ auditory cortex” since there is reduced brain stimulation in that area.

"If you want to address hearing loss well," Lin says, "you want to do it sooner rather than later. If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we're seeing on an MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place."

The human brain contains some of the most challenging biological mysteries in science (and always has). Unlocking those takes perseverance, so HHF thanks brain and hearing researchers for the time and energy devoted to rigorous research and ultimately revealing information critical to improving brain health.

Parts really do affect the health of the whole. So for the brain and beyond, please make an appointment with your hearing healthcare professional for your annual checkup and, if you are diagnosed with a hearing loss, managing it. More than just your hearing will benefit! Untreated hearing loss has been linked to dementia, depression, diabetes, falls, and heart disease.

Want to learn more about brain health? Check out last year’s blog here: Your Brain Is a Muscle: Use It or Lose It

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