Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of the aging process: 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 turn up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we start to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also often thought of as a regular part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread in the older population than the general population. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, better still, what if there were a way to manage hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t associated with 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 fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from 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 Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there is no concrete finding or conclusive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary situations they have pinpointed that they think lead to issues: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These situations lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work extra hard to make up for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. The region of the brain that’s in control of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other areas of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
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. Studies show that people increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals 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 have some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.