Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Maybe we start turning up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh yes. Maybe we start forgetting things.
Loss of memory is also usually thought of as a regular part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more prevalent in the older population than the general population. But what if there was a connection between the two? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is quite clear: studies show that there is a serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also have hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which appear to result in issues: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These situations lead to a path of solitude, which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work overtime to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. The part of the brain that’s in control of comprehending sounds, such as voices in a conversation, demands more help from other portion of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot quicker than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, 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.
As a matter of fact, we would most likely see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are almost 50 million people who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.