The brain shrinks with age, but the shrinkage may be faster in older adults with hearing loss, according to a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging in the US.

Those with impaired hearing were found to lose more than an additional cubic centimetre of brain tissue each year compared with those with normal hearing."Our results suggest that hearing loss could be another 'hit' on the brain in many ways," says Frank Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University's school of medicine.

For the study, Lin and his colleagues compared brain changes over time between adults with normal hearing and adults with impaired hearing.

Lin and his colleagues said those participants whose hearing was already impaired at the start of the study had accelerated rates of brain atrophy compared to those with normal hearing.

The study also gives some urgency to treating hearing loss rather than ignoring it. "If you want to address hearing loss, well, you want to do it sooner rather than later," added Lin.

The findings add to a growing list of health consequences associated with hearing loss, including increased risk of dementia, falls, hospitalizations, and diminished physical and mental health overall.


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