Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing old: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we begin to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also usually thought to be a regular part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more widespread in the senior citizen population than the general population. But what if there was a connection between the two? And, better yet, what if there were a way to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the link is quite clear: research has shown that there is a substantial chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety 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 be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two main circumstances they have pinpointed that they believe lead to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who find themselves in this scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can cause mental health issues.
Also, researchers have found that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning like they should. The area of the brain that’s in charge of comprehending sounds, such as voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other areas of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot quicker than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. 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 reports that there are almost 50 million individuals who suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.