Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing older: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we start forgetting things.
Loss of memory is also commonly thought to be a normal part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is quite clear: if you have hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues 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 linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main situations which appear to lead to issues: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. People who find themselves in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can cause mental health issues.
Also, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears are not functioning like they should. When this occurs, other regions of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen much quicker than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. 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 suffer from some kind 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.