Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we get older, 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 perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we start forgetting things.
Loss of memory is also usually thought to be a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than the general population. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is quite clear: studies show that there is a substantial 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 such as anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is definitely some link and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two main situations they have identified that they think lead to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness results in depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find that it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. People who are in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t working like they should. When this takes place, other parts of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Studies show that people improved their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
In fact, we would most likely see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million individuals who suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by just a couple million people.