Person experiences hear loss as a lockbox on their ear on top of a mountain

What Did You Say? I Can't Hear You!

"Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people." - Helen Keller

I agree with Helen Keller's statement that a decrease in hearing does cut us off from communicating with others and comprehending spoken language.

After I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD), I gradually developed a hearing loss. When I watched television, I needed to increase the volume. I couldn't understand what was being said in group situations in restaurants, or in the movies.

In addition, when my wife and I talked, her voice sounded muffled. I needed her to repeat what she said slowly, in a loud voice. Was my declining hearing ability caused by Parkinson's disease? 

Hearing loss and Parkinson's

As a speech pathologist, I've treated many people with Parkinson's in my practice. Many of them had hearing difficulties. That led me to research the relationship between PD, dopamine deficiency, and hearing loss.

This research directed me to a study conducted by a Taiwanese research team. They found that, the incidence of Parkinson's disease among a group of people with hearing loss was 1.77-fold higher than that in the non-hearing-loss group.1

The role of dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter - a chemical substance in the body. Among dopamine’s many functions, it is linked to the brain’s system of motivation and reward. Furthermore, it helps regulate mood, sleep, and cognition.

Dopamine also helps protect the cochlea - the sensory organ involved in hearing. But, a decrease in dopamine can lead to damage to the cochlea which can cause hearing dysfunction or hearing loss.2

Inner ear damage

Damage in the inner ear can lead to sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). SNHL can make softer sounds more difficult to hear, or loud sounds can become unclear or muffled.3

Unfortunately, medication or surgery often cannot fix it. However, hearing aids may help. An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can test your hearing and may recommend a remedy for the hearing loss.3

Custom-made hearing aids are personally fitted and programmed. Also, an audiologist can test your hearing and prescribe an appropriate solution.

Cochlear implants

Other treatment options for SNHL include cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that stimulates the auditory nerve. This allows severely hearing-impaired individuals to perceive sounds.4,5

Consider making an appointment with either an ENT or an audiologist to accurately evaluate the hearing impairment. They can professionally test your hearing and can discuss your options to possibly resolve hearing capabilities.

Speech therapy can help

Afterward, a speech pathologist can initiate hearing therapy (aural rehabilitation). Hearing therapy is used to improve the speech and communication of the hearing impaired.

Components of this type of therapy may include hearing aid or cochlear orientation, listening strategies, speechreading (formerly lip reading), and auditory training.

In conclusion, studies suggest that dopamine loss can decrease hearing abilities when the cochlea is affected. By improving hearing through compensatory strategies, people with Parkinson's may speak and hear better in all areas of conversation.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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