Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we grow older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Maybe we begin to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also usually considered a normal part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the link is quite clear: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even if you have relatively mild hearing loss.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted 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 there are no solid findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. They have pinpointed two main situations which seem to lead to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
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. People who find themselves in this situation tend to start to isolate themselves which can bring about mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning like they should. The area of the brain that’s in control of understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other regions of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are almost 50 million people who have some form of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will improve exponentially.