Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of the aging process: we begin to hear things less intelligibly as we grow older. Maybe we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up 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 usually thought to be a regular part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the older population than the general population. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, better yet, 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 about 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right direction: studies show that there is a serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression 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 issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While there is no proven evidence or definitive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is definitely some link and several clues that experts are looking into. They have identified two main scenarios which appear to lead to issues: 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 that it’s too hard to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. These situations lead to a path of solitude, which can result in mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not working like they should. When this occurs, other areas of the brain, like the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much quicker than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research has shown that people increased their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
Actually, we would likely see less cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million people who have some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can lessen that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will improve exponentially.