Cognition is the activities of thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering. Cognitive decline is a normal part of the aging process. Although it can occur at different times throughout people’s lives, the result is a brain that does not function as well as it used to. Cognitive decline is the response to the aging of neurons and the decreased speed of brain function. The primary symptoms of a reduction in cognition include the following:
Although there is much information regarding the loss of cognition in older adults, cognitive decline can begin at an early age. Research from the University of Virginia suggests that cognitive decline can start around age 27. Hearing loss among young people is on the rise too due to an increase in environmental noise levels. Is there a connection between hearing loss and cognition in young people? Researchers believe that a loss of hearing can directly impact cognition in young people.
An Ohio State University research project suggests that young people with subtle hearing loss are altering their brain function in ways previously only seen in older adults. The findings indicate a correlation with early onset dementia. The team observed activity in the right frontal cortex of the brain as participants read sentences of increasing difficulty. Those participants who had hearing problems showed high activity in the region of the brain that is usually not utilized until later in life. The researchers fear that using these cognitive resources now will not leave much for cognitive function later in life.
Another study is examining the connection between hearing loss and cognition in young people. This research is showing that even slight hearing loss affects brain activity during speech perception. With young people exposing themselves to extended periods of loud noise exposure, the concern for their hearing has never been more significant.
The study focused on 35 healthy young adults between the ages of 18 and 41 years old. The examiners monitored the brain activity of the participants for their responses to sentences with different degrees of syntactic complexity. The language network in the front temporal region showed a high activity level as sentence difficulty increased and activity in the right frontal cortex showed a negative correlation with hearing acuity. The right frontal region was not correlated with age and showed an association with hearing acuity.
The current findings alone can’t establish a relationship between hearing loss and cognitive impairment in young people, and further research is warranted to further understand the link between a loss of hearing and cognitive impairment in a young person. If a young person puts all their energy into being able to hear, little cognitive function is available for other processes such as memory and processing. Because of this evidence, the researchers stress the early prevention and treatment of hearing loss before it affects one’s health and well-being.