Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of getting older: we begin to hear things less clearly as we age. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we start to lose our memory.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the elderly population. That’s the reason why memory loss is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And, better still, what if there was a way to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is quite clear: if you have hearing loss, there is considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who have 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 is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
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 pinpointed two main scenarios which seem to lead to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown that loneliness brings about depression and anxiety. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with other people. Many people find that it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. People who are in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears are not functioning normally. When this takes place, other areas of the brain, including the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much quicker than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research shows that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see reduced cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require 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 deal with 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.