Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing older: we begin to hear things less distinctly as we grow older. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh yes. Maybe we begin to forget things.
Memory loss is also commonly thought of as a regular part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the older population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And, better still, what if there was a way for you to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the link is very clear: research has shown that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also have hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from 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 Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is definitely some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two primary situations they have pinpointed that they believe lead to issues: your brain working extra hard 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 suffer from hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy events like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who find themselves in this scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can cause mental health concerns.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning like they should. When this occurs, other parts of the brain, including the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen much faster than it normally would.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our hearing letting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
Actually, we would most likely see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s calculated 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 lessen that number by even a couple million people.