Hearing loss is considered a normal part of growing older: as we age, 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 start turning up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh yes. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also often thought of as a normal part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is definitely some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main scenarios which seem to lead to issues: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with other people. Many people find that it’s too hard 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 problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears aren’t working normally. When this takes place, other areas of the brain, like the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur much faster than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million individuals who have some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.