As we get older we begin to have difficulty hearing clearly and we usually just accept it as a normal part of growing older. Perhaps we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Maybe the volume on our TV keeps getting louder. We may even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also commonly seen as a normal part of aging because the senior population is more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And is it possible to maintain your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and mental decline
Mental decline and dementia aren’t commonly connected to hearing loss. Nevertheless, the link is quite clear if you look in the appropriate places: if you have hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have shown there’s a significant risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
Individuals who have hearing loss also frequently deal with mental health problems including depression and anxiety. Your ability to socialize is affected by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why does hearing loss affect cognitive decline?
There is a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there’s a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are investigating some persuasive clues. They believe two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working harder to hear and social separation.
Countless studies show that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And when people have hearing loss, they’re not as likely to interact socially with others. Many individuals who suffered from hearing loss find it’s too hard to participate in conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. The part of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that stores memories. This overworks the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to prevent cognitive decline
The weapon against mental health issues and cognitive decline is hearing aids. When people use hearing aids to manage hearing loss, studies have revealed that they were at a lower risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
We would see fewer instances of cognitive decline and mental health issues if more people would just use their hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. Almost 50 million people cope with dementia as reported by the World Health Organization estimates. For many people and families, the quality of life will be enhanced if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to start hearing better – and remembering things without any trouble? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for a consultation.