3 Ways Hearing Loss in Younger People Changes the Brain

women listening to headphones

When a favorite song plays on your digital app, it’s tempting to turn up the volume to sing along. But don’t. New research shows that loud music and noises can have a lasting effect on your hearing and brain function. Here are three ways that hearing loss in younger people changes the brain.

Hidden hearing loss

Loud concerts, parties, and sporting events are common activities many young adults enjoy. However, continuous exposure to loud noises can injure the part of the brain, called the synaptic ribbons, which connect sensory cells in your inner ear to the hearing nerve.

At first, you may not notice any difference in your hearing. But when you go out with friends to a noisy restaurant, you may struggle to hear conversations. Medical experts define this condition as hidden hearing loss. Currently, hearing loss cannot be reversed. However, researchers are making significant headway in finding treatment options to repair hearing.

Changes in brain function

Scientists found that even minor hearing deficits in young adults can change brain function.

Younger people use the left side of the brain to process language. But as adults age, normal hearing changes, and the brain compensates by using the right side to interpret sounds. This usually doesn’t happen until after age 50. Learn more about how the brain processes sound by reading this blog.

Recently, researchers discovered that when younger people have hearing loss, their brains detect the change and switch to using more of the right side to process language. Medical experts fear that this early use of the right side of the brain could lead to more hearing problems as these individuals age.

Risk for dementia

People with hearing loss before age 50 are twice as likely to develop dementia when they’re older, doctors report. Researchers believe that hearing loss forces the brain to work harder on cognitive activities, such as processing sounds, thinking, and recalling memories, which could lead to dementia.

U.S. News & World Report