Hearing loss is usually accepted as simply a normal part of getting older: as we age, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we start turning up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps we begin to forget things?
Loss of memory is also normally considered a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than in the general population at large. But what if the two were somehow connected? And is it possible to protect your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia aren’t commonly connected to hearing loss. But if you look in the appropriate places, you will see a clear connection: studies show that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Individuals who have hearing loss also frequently deal with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. The key point here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all impact our ability to socialize.
Why does hearing loss impact cognitive decline?
While there is no concrete finding or definitive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is some connection and numerous clues that experts are investigating. They believe two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working extra hard to hear and social isolation.
Studies have demonstrated that anxiety and depression are frequently the result of isolation. And people are not as likely to socialize with others when they cope with hearing loss. 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 going to the movies. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain often has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. Eventually, the part of the brain in charge of other tasks, like holding memories, has to use some of its resources to help the part of the brain responsible for hearing. Mental decline will then progress faster than normal as the overworked brain struggles to keep up.
How to fight cognitive decline with hearing aids
The weapon against mental health problems and mental decline is hearing aids. When people use hearing aids to deal with hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer instances of mental health issues 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. Nearly 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 improve your hearing and protect your memory at the same time? Contact us today and make an appointment for a consultation to learn whether hearing aids are right for you and to get on the path to better mental health.