Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of getting older: we start to hear things less intelligibly as we grow older. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to suffer memory loss.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why loss of memory is regarded as a normal part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right places: research has shown that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is definitely some link and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main situations which appear to lead to problems: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this situation often start to isolate themselves which can bring about mental health concerns.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears are not working normally. The region of the brain that’s in control of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other regions of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to occur much faster than it normally would.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research has shown that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are close to 50 million people who have some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for people and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.