Hearing loss is considered a typical part of the aging process: as we age, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Maybe 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 maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
Memory loss is also commonly considered a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than the general population. But what if there was a connection between the two? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is very clear: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even if you have fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression 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 effect on our ability to socialize.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there are no solid findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main situations which appear to result in issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. People who are in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health issues.
Also, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. When this takes place, other regions of the brain, like the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur much quicker than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our hearing allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that people increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are close to 50 million individuals who deal with some form of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.