Researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered that subtle hearing loss in young people, one that they may not even notice, is putting demands on their brains that would not be typically seen until later in life.
“Hearing loss, even minor deficits, can take a toll in young people – they’re using cognitive resources that could be preserved until much later in life,” said lead researcher Yune Lee, an assistant professor of speech and hearing science at Ohio State. “Most concerning, this early hearing loss could pave the way for dementia.”
The original purpose of the research was to examine how brains processes various sentences, increasing in complexity. What the researchers have noticed, is that some study subjects with a very minor case of hearing loss, exhibited brain activity in the right brain hemisphere. Traditionally, the left hemisphere processes language up until people are at least 50 years old.
“But in our study, young people with mild hearing decline were already experiencing this phenomenon,” Lee said. “Their brains already know that the perception of sound is not what it used to be and the right side starts compensating for the left.”
The long-term effects of these changes in the brain are not yet clear, but the researchers fear that they may eventually lead to dementia.