Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of getting older: we begin to hear things less distinctly as we get older. Maybe we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s why memory loss is considered a neutral part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right places: research has shown that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems including depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two main circumstances they have pinpointed that they believe contribute to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Many people find that it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of solitude, which can lead to mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears are not functioning normally. When this happens, other regions of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot faster than it normally would.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that people improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
Actually, we would probably see less cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need 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 have some kind of dementia. 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 develop exponentially.