Notes from Our February 2024 HOPE Meeting

If you missed our February 2024 HOPE virtual hearing loss support meeting, here are the notes. We were fortunate to have Dr. Megan Nightingale as our special guest. Dr. Nightingale spoke on many topics, particularly tinnitus, the link between tinnitus and hearing loss, how you might treat tinnitus, and why and how untreated hearing loss can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.

You can read more about our HOPE program here. Notes from HOPE meetings are always available on our blog shortly after the meeting.

Highlights from Dr. Meghan Nightingale’s presentation: “The Neuroscience of Tinnitus and Dementia and the Impact of Hearing Loss on Brain Health”

  • The Harvard Health Review lists hearing loss as the number one neurological disorder around the world.
  • Hearing loss and tinnitus are chronic medical conditions that when left untreated can lead to accelerated neurodegeneration in the brain.
  • Tinnitus is like an early warning signal that there is a problem in the middle ear and neuro-connections from the inner ear to the brain–almost like a precursor to noticeable hearing loss.
  • Tinnitus is a brain phenomenon. It’s our brain trying to compensate for missing stimulation from our ears.
  • Tinnitus is the number one primary condition of our military servicepeople–hearing loss is number 2 in the modern battlefield.
  • The primary way to treat tinnitus is to treat the hearing loss.
  • A new FDA-approved tinnitus treatment is called bimodal stimulation. It’s often used for very severe tinnitus, such as when people can’t work, sleep, or function well in their daily lives. Its effectiveness rate is about 75%.
  • One attendee reported that her tinnitus increased suddenly, so she is taking Gingko biloba and having weekly acupuncture sessions, and she is doing better.
  • With untreated hearing loss, issues with word finding, name finding, and short-term memory can happen because we’re working so hard at trying to put the message together, there isn’t enough energy left to store a conversation in our memories.
  • The social isolation, cerebral atrophy, and brain overload that accompany hearing loss can work together to accelerate cognitive decline.
  • Treating your hearing loss is one of the top three things you can do to help prevent dementia.
  • Hidden hearing loss is now referred to as subclinical hearing loss. It can sometimes be measured by testing otoacoustic emissions.

Help for Someone in Denial About Their Hearing Loss
An attendee mentioned that she would reach out to her audiologist, who chairs the speech and hearing board, to discuss a person in denial about their hearing loss. She expressed her desire to provide resources and support to the individual, hoping that attending more meetings and learning about hearing loss would be beneficial. She acknowledged the positive impact HLAA and treating her own hearing loss had on her life.


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