Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of getting older: we start to hear things less distinctly as we age. Maybe 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 to lose our memory.
Memory loss is also usually considered 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 could it be that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With about 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right direction: if you have hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who suffer from 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 Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there are no concrete findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health problems, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary situations they have identified that they think lead to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
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 it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears are not working normally. When this takes place, other parts of the brain, like the one responsible for memory, are diverted for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen much quicker than it normally would.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Studies show that people improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
Actually, we would likely see fewer cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are close to 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.