Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of getting older: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to suffer memory loss.
Memory loss is also commonly considered a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right direction: studies show that there is a significant chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems like anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking into. They have pinpointed two main situations which appear to result in problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. People who find themselves in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can cause mental health issues.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work extra hard to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. When this occurs, other regions of the brain, like the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen much quicker than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research shows that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who need 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 suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.