Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing old: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the elderly population. That’s the reason why memory loss is considered a normal part of aging. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected 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 issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is definitely some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. They have identified two main situations which seem to lead to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Many people find that it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. People who are in this situation tend to start to isolate themselves which can result in mental health concerns.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears are not functioning like they should. The part of the brain which is in charge of understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, demands more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot faster than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our hearing permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see reduced cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people 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 almost 50 million individuals who deal with some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will develop exponentially.