Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of getting older: we start to hear things less clearly as we age. Perhaps we start turning the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh yes. Maybe we begin to lose our memory.
Memory loss is also commonly thought to be a regular part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And, even better, what if there were a way for you to treat hearing loss and also preserve your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million people 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 connection is very clear: studies show that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
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, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main situations which appear to lead to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
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. People who find themselves in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health problems.
researchers have also discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning normally. The region of the brain that’s in charge of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other regions of the brain – specifically, the area of the brain that used for memory. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much quicker than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
Actually, we would most likely see less instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million individuals who have some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by even a couple million people.