Study: Protect Your Hearing To Preserve Your Mind
Hearing loss impairs the absorption of information—the first step in the process of learning and remembering—and, thus, can have serious cognitive consequences. That’s why getting regular hearing examinations and taking steps to reverse hearing loss with hearing aids is especially important in older age. In fact, a new study suggests that more than 50 percent of people over 75 have hearing loss. Researchers recruited 100 seniors with hearing loss, 34 of whom regularly used hearing aids and 66 of whom did not, and compared the mental functioning of the two groups. The research revealed a significant difference in tests of mental function between the two groups of participants. Despite having poorer hearing at both high and low frequencies, those participants who used hearing aids performed better on cognitive tests than participants who did not use the aids, suggesting that loss of hearing was having a direct impact on mental decline. In a paper published online April 25, 2016 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the researchers concluded that, “because hearing loss is nearly universal in those older than 80 years, hearing aids should be strongly recommended to minimize cognitive impairment in the elderly.”
Research suggests that the following strategies can help preserve hearing as you grow older:
▶ Give up smoking, which reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the cochlea, causing permanent damage.
▶ Maintain a healthy weight. Studies indicate that hearing loss increases with body mass index (BMI).
▶ Manage conditions associated with an increased risk of hearing loss, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. (Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults who have diabetes as in adults who do not have diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health.)
▶ Protect your ears from loud noises, such as blaring music. Exposure to high levels of environmental noise (85 decibels or more) can damage your ability to hear high-frequency sounds.
▶ Get regular checkups to catch hearing problems early so that preventative measures can be taken.
▶ Consider seeking help from a mental healthcare provider if difficulty hearing is leaving you feeling isolated, depressed, or anxious.
Climb the Stairway to Mental Acuity
Staying sharp in older age may be as simple as electing to climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator, according to a new study published April 2016 in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of 331 healthy adults in an effort to assess their brain health. The results indicate that participants who regularly climbed stairs had more gray matter (the cells responsible for information processing) than those who chose to use the escalator or ride the elevator instead. Greater volume of gray matter is an indication of younger brain age. The research revealed that for every flight of stairs climbed each day, a participant’s brain age appeared approximately six months younger. The study’s findings suggest that a simple change in routine can lead to a sharper brain over time. The study’s lead author pointed out that “in comparison to many other forms of physical activity, taking the stairs is something most older adults can and already do at least once a day, unlike vigorous forms of physical activity.”
The post Memory Maximizers: Protecting Your Hearing; Mental Acuity appeared first on University Health News.
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