Hearing loss is usually accepted as just another part of getting older: as we age, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we start turning 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 forget things?
Loss of memory is also normally regarded as a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more widespread in the senior citizen population than in the general population at large. But is it possible that there’s a link between the two? And is it possible to protect your mental health and treat hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and cognitive decline
Cognitive decline and dementia are not usually associated with hearing loss. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: studies reveal that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in individuals who suffer from hearing loss. 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?
There is a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there is a direct cause and effect association, experts are investigating some persuasive clues. They think two main situations are responsible: the inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Studies have shown that anxiety and depression are frequently the result of isolation. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Many people find it difficult to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health issues.
Studies have also shown that when someone has hearing impairment, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the reduced stimulation. Ultimately, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like remembering, has to use some of its resources to help the region of the brain responsible for hearing. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
How to stop cognitive decline with hearing aids
The first line of defense against mental health problems and cognitive decline is hearing aids. Studies show that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a lower risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
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. Almost 50 million people cope with dementia as reported by the World Health Organization estimates. If hearing aids can lower that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will be exponentially improved.
Are you ready to begin hearing better – and remembering things without any problems? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for a consultation.