As we get older we begin to have trouble hearing clearly and we typically just accept it as a normal part of growing older. Maybe we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Perhaps the volume on our TV keeps going up. We might even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Memory loss is also normally considered a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than in the general population at large. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And is it possible to safeguard your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Most individuals do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the appropriate places: studies reveal that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key point here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all influence our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
There is a connection between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there is a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are exploring some compelling clues. They have identified two main scenarios that they think lead to problems: the inability to interact socially and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that isolation leads to anxiety and depression. And people aren’t as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many people find it difficult to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. Mental health problems can be the result of this path of isolation.
Studies have also shown that when someone has hearing impairment, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the diminished stimulation. The region of the brain that processes sounds, such as voices in a conversation, needs more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to prevent mental decline
The weapon against mental health problems and mental decline is hearing aids. When people use hearing aids to address hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we may see fewer instances of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Of all the people who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually wear them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.
Are you ready to begin hearing better – and remembering things without any issue? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for an appointment.