The connection between our auditory abilities and cognitive function is profound. Research has repeatedly highlighted the correlation between hearing impairment and cognitive decline. According to research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, individuals with hearing loss severe enough to hinder conversations were found to be much more likely to experience cognitive impairment.
Cognitive Decline: An Unwanted Side-Effect of Hearing Loss
The inability to hear or communicate efficiently can lead to cognitive decline or hasten its onset. This phenomenon is not merely a theory but a documented fact backed by decades of research. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to address hearing loss promptly and efficiently. The silver lining? Appropriate hearing treatments can significantly bolster an individual's brain processing and memory.
The Role of an Audiologist in Preserving Brain and Hearing Health
Being aware of the interrelationship between hearing and cognitive decline, audiologists prioritize regular cognitive skills screenings. This practice enables the early detection of any signs of cognitive decline, allowing for timely adjustments to the patient's hearing treatment plan to cater to all aspects of their brain health.
What Does a Cognitive Skills Test Entail?
A cognitive skills test is a computer-based assessment that gauges a person's cognitive function abilities. It has been approved by the FDA and is highly regarded within the medical community. This test examines six areas of the brain:
- Motor skills and visual alertness
- Shape and motor perception
- Letter and word perception
- Letter and word memory
- Shape and motion memory
- Ability to think about and follow abstract thoughts
In addition to the above, the test also measures the speed and time it takes to process and physically react to what is being said or happening.
The Cognivue Screening Tool
The most commonly used tool in the industry for comprehensive cognitive screening is the Cognivue. It's an FDA-cleared cognitive function test utilized by audiologists and other medical professionals. The Cognivue test is highly efficient, taking only about fifteen minutes to complete.
The Cognivue assessment is quite straightforward. It begins with watching an introductory video, followed by two practice sessions. The core evaluation lasts ten minutes, with responses recorded by turning a wheel to select the picture that best answers each question. Finally, a one-minute video explains what happens next.
It's important to note that the Cognivue test is an evaluation tool rather than an examination with a pass or fail outcome. Once completed, the audiologist can review the results with the patient and suggest any necessary modifications to their current hearing plan.
Necessity of Screening for Cognitive Impairment
Regular screening for cognitive impairment enables audiologists to offer the best possible hearing treatment, addressing all of the patient's hearing health needs. If the assessment indicates any cognitive decline, the audiologist can refer the patient to the appropriate medical professional for further examination and potential treatment. One of the significant advantages of regular cognitive screening is early detection. Often, cognitive decline can be subtle in its initial stages, going unnoticed by those around the patient. Regular screenings can detect these early signs, allowing for a proactive response and the implementation of a preventative treatment plan.
The Impact of Hearing on Cognitive Abilities
When we consider the process of hearing, it's easy to focus solely on our ears. However, our brain plays a pivotal role in processing and interpreting sounds. When our hearing ability degrades, the parts of our brain responsible for decoding sounds start to atrophy due to lack of use. This phenomenon leads to the brain reallocating its resources to compensate for the hearing loss.
According to a study published in PLOS ONE, even minor hearing loss can cause the part of our brain responsible for auditory processing to shift focus to visual processing. When the brain's regions typically used for auditory tasks are not engaged, they can atrophy, leading to a subsequent decline in cognitive abilities.
The Connection Between Hearing Treatments and Cognitive Decline
While much remains unknown about the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, studies have found evidence suggesting a correlation. A 2021 review in the peer-reviewed journal Life mentions that "Hearing loss appears as a risk factor for cognitive impairment." Moreover, a recent meta-analysis of 31 studies involving 137,484 participants, published in JAMA Neurology, points to the benefits of hearing treatments. The study found that using "hearing aids and cochlear implants is associated with a decreased risk of subsequent cognitive decline." This analysis was supported by the release of the recent ACHIEVE study, which found that "hearing intervention slowed down loss of thinking and memory abilities by 48% over 3 years."
Taking a Holistic Approach to Healthcare
Given the clear link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, incorporating cognitive assessments into routine hearing examinations makes sense. Cognitive problems can often present as listening disorders. Through a comprehensive series of evaluations, hearing experts can help determine exactly what's happening. Depending on the results of the cognitive assessment, the next step may involve a referral to other medical specialists.
At Victory Hearing and Balance, we believe in holistic hearing care. We offer cognitive screenings as part of our comprehensive hearing wellness check. Our goal is to ensure that you receive the best possible healthcare, addressing all facets of your auditory and cognitive health.
For questions or to book a cognitive screening for yourself or a loved one, please contact Victory Hearing and Balance at (512) 686-0380. We're here to help!
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