Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we age, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we start turning up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we start to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also often thought to be a normal part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more prevalent in the older population than the general population at large. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, better yet, what if there was a way to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is quite clear: if you have hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even if you have fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly 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, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary situations they have pinpointed that they think lead to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. When this occurs, other parts of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see reduced cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are nearly 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will develop exponentially.