Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing older: we start to hear things less clearly as we get older. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we begin to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also often considered a regular part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And, better yet, what if there were a way to manage hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is quite clear: if you have hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While there is no concrete finding or definitive evidence that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two main situations they have identified that they believe contribute to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy things like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead to a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears aren’t working normally. When this takes place, other regions of the brain, like the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and comprehending sound. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our hearing permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
Actually, we would probably see less instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are close to 50 million individuals who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will develop exponentially.