Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of getting older: we begin to hear things less distinctly as we get older. 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 perhaps…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we begin to forget things.
Memory loss is also usually thought to be a normal part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread 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 protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t associated with hearing loss. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right places: research has shown that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two main scenarios they have pinpointed that they think lead to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning normally. When this happens, other parts of the brain, including the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much quicker than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, we would probably see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who need 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 kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.