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Image of 2 girls listening to music on phone with earbuds.Chances are good your teen or young adult child listens to music through earbuds or headphones. Chances are also good they regularly or at least occasionally are hearing their music at a louder-than-recommended volume (60 percent of average smartphone’s maximum volume).

Even if they don’t notice a slight decrease in their hearing, listening at a loud volume as a youth could affect brain function as an adult. Taking steps in hearing loss prevention as a youth can go a long way in preventing problems later in life.

Listening to sounds of 85 decibels and higher can result in tinnitus (ringing in the ears), temporary or permanent hearing loss. Many smartphones play music at a maximum volume of 115 decibels.

A Shift in Brain Activity

A recent study conducted by Yune Lee and researchers at The Ohio State University found that even a slight hearing loss – so subtle the subjects didn’t realize they had it – were altering brain activity in a way that is usually found in older adults.

The study monitored brain activity with people ages 18 to 41 using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The subjects listened to a group of sentences with varying levels of complexity and demands required to process them.

Researchers discovered that those with greater hearing loss had activity in the brain’s right hemisphere, which is notable because the left hemisphere is responsible for language comprehension and speech regulation. In a U.S. News & World Report article, Lee said this shift in hemisphere activity is of note because it does not typically happen in younger adults.

“That is worrisome because they start using up these resources too early in life,” he said. “It’s like withdrawing money from a retirement account too early; these resources need to be preserved for later in life.”

Link to Dementia

The concern with this shift in brain activity is that there is growing evidence of the link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Estimates show that hearing loss in the middle stages of life is tied to a 50% higher risk of developing dementia as a senior citizen. Researchers believe that when someone uses excessive energy for hearing, it takes away from brain resources that are needed for things such as memory.

To learn more about tinnitus, hearing loss prevention, hearing aids or other services available at Audiology & Hearing Services of Charlotte, call 704-412-7975 or contact us online.

- Audiology & Hearing Services of Charlotte
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