Vail Daily column: Brain health and hearing can help cognitive loss | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Brain health and hearing can help cognitive loss

Judson Haims
My View

When it comes to keeping the body in shape, the colloquial phrase “use it or lose it” may often be heard. But does this concept apply to the brain as well? Emphatically, yes!

In effort to provide a higher level of care to our clients, I tend to read a considerable amount about some of the ailments that affect their lives. Recently, I started paying closer attention to the subject matter of age-related memory loss and how hearing aids can play a part in mitigating cognitive loss.

In an article I previously wrote about hearing loss and hearing aids, I shared a personal story of how my family and I had been affected by the hearing loss endured by my father. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of research conducted in addition to leaps in technological advancements. I hope that anyone who is affected by hearing loss will seek out further research and education.

According to a recent study by the Center for Brain-Mind Medicine and Harvard Medical School, “Studies have shown that you can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia with some basic good health habits: staying physically active, getting enough sleep, not smoking, having good social connections, limiting alcohol to one drink a day and eating a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats.” Such basic and fundamental habits are not difficult to follow and the results can be life changing.

Another study recently conducted by Jonathan Peelle, Ph.D., and Art Wingfield, of Brandeis University, provides a greater understanding of the association between one’s ability to hear and areas of gray matter within the brain is detailed. Their research proposes that people with hearing loss work harder to understand speech signals, thus making other aspects of comprehension more difficult. These professors provide addition information on this subject in the article, “How does hearing loss affect the brain?” This article explains how the professors conducted MRI studies that suggest “listeners’ hearing ability does not only impact their sensory processing of auditory information, but also impacts higher-level linguistic processes.” Therefore, it implies that decreased hearing ability has cascading consequences for the neural processes supporting perception and cognition.

In October, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published “Self-reported hearing loss: hearing aids and cognitive decline in elderly adults, a 25-year study.” This study conducted at the University of Bordeaux, France, was led by Professor Helene Amieva and provided great insight and support on how one’s ability to hear better increases cognitive abilities. This interesting article, although not available online, can be read at your local library in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The above mentioned are only a few of many studies that indicate the importance in correcting hearing loss and its relation to maintaining better cognitive function. When it comes to your brain, if you don’t use it, you will lose it.

• Keep learning: Challenging your brain with mental exercise is believed to activate processes that help maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them.

• Use all your senses: The more senses you use in learning something, (sight, smell, touch) the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory.

• Embrace simple helping tools: Take advantage of calendars and planners, maps, shopping lists, file folders and address books to keep routine information accessible.

With the holidays upon us, this is a perfect time to consider buying gifts such as word, card and table games that increase social interaction and help those with cognitive challenges. Some of these games include: Scrabble, Boggle, gin rummy, poker, mahjong, Rummikub and Bananagrams.

Temporary loss of memory can happen at any age; nevertheless, aging by itself is generally not a cause of degenerative cognition.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.