Hearing loss is considered a typical part of getting older: as we age, we start to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
Loss of memory is also commonly thought of as a normal part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But what if there was a connection between the two? And, better yet, what if there was a way to manage hearing loss and also protect your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t associated with hearing loss. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health concerns, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While there is no proven evidence or conclusive evidence that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which appear to lead to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people find that it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. People who are in this scenario often start to isolate themselves which can bring about mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. When this happens, other areas of the brain, like the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research has shown that people increased their cognitive functions and were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
In fact, we would likely see less instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are nearly 50 million individuals who deal with some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for people and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.