Sam Bauman: Hearing and dementia and helping children



Before I get into a technical report on how hearing loss can affect dementia, I’d like to jump into a discovery I stumbled across. It concerns iPhones and hearing aids:

As an iPhone user, I have problems hearing phone callers. I explored using ear buds but carrying them with the phone was a major problem. Then a friend told me of a man she knew who had a device on a chain hanging around his neck. When he got a call on his iPhone, he merely touched the device and the call went directly to is hearing aids. Clarity was excellent.

Sounded good to me, so I visited audio expert Dr. Nanci Campbell in Carson City to see if I could buy such a device (after many failures using the Internet).

“Sure, I can get you one through Omicron,” she said, ‘but let me see your hearing aids.” I passed one across and she examined it. “This is from Microtech and the company went out of business eight years ago before hearing aid wireless was begun, and I can’t tie into your present ones.” The device has to be linked to hearing aids by professionals like Campbell.

She promised to send me information about hearing device improvements and one item follows this report.

Since talking to Campbell, I have started talking to the VA in Reno. The people there supplied me with my current hearing aids eight years ago and now I trying to get n appointment with the audio people to see about a new pair. No luck so far, so I guess I’ll have to dig up $3,000 for new hearing aids so Campbell can fix me up. I’ll report on progress in the future. The VA has always been helpful with my health and hearing problems so I hope they can help me now.

Dementia and hearing

Dr. Campbell shared the following report on hearing and dementia from XXXII World Congress of Audiology’s Roundtable on Central Auditory Plasticity.

I’ve edited to some degree but haven’t changed any conclusions or facts. It’s important because it claims that early help for babies with hearing problems is important so I wanted to share this with parents.

New research into understanding how the brain adapts and improves its hearing abilities through the use of hearing systems may play a role in the future management of dementia. The use of hearing aids and cochlear implants to delay and/or reverse cognitive decline in conditions such as dementia was one of the topics to be discussed at the World Congress of Audiology’s Roundtable on Central Auditory Plasticity.

Roundtable speaker Professor Stephen Crain (Macquarie University) describes central auditory plasticity as the adaptability of the brain’s cerebral cortex to process sound more effectively in response to new stimuli.

“We now know the brain has a remarkable ability to regrow and adapt itself to process new kinds of information and relearn tasks, especially in early childhood, but across the lifespan,” Crain said. “Some of the best evidence for this comes from a brain imaging technique known as MEG (Magnetoencephalography) which measures tiny magnetic fields that are activated throughout our brains whenever we process information. Through MEG, researchers have been able to gain a better understanding of which areas of our brains are used to process certain kinds of information, including language.”

“One find via MEG was learning that blind persons process sound in both the brain’s visual and auditory cortex.”

The peak of the brain’s central auditory plasticity occurs in children between the ages of 2 and 4. It’s before this critical time that infants with hearing loss benefit most from being fitted with a hearing device so that the regions of the brain that processes sound information and language can develop most optimally.

Evidence that many adults who are initially unhappy with their hearing devices suddenly report dramatic improvement a month or so later.

The degree of hearing loss is highly correlated with the risk of dementia so it seems highly likely that intervention with a hearing device to restore hearing in adulthood could assist in delaying the onset of dementia.” Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older people.

The full study can be read at

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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