As we get older we start to have difficulty hearing clearly and we normally just accept it as a normal part of growing older. Perhaps 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.
Loss of memory is also normally considered a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more widespread in the senior citizen population than in the younger population at large. But is it possible that there’s a link between the two? And is it possible to protect your mental health and treat hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Most people do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. Nevertheless, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Individuals who have hearing loss also often have mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The key point here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all affect our ability to socialize.
Why does hearing loss affect cognitive decline?
There is a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there is a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are investigating some persuasive clues. They have pinpointed two main scenarios that they think result in problems: the inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness results in depression and anxiety. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Many people find it hard to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. 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 make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. The part of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that stores memories. This overworks the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to stop cognitive decline
Hearing aids are our first weapon against mental decline, mental health issues, and dementia. When people use hearing aids to address hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a lower risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer instances of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. Nearly 50 million people cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. For many individuals and families, the quality of life will be enhanced if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to begin hearing better – and remembering things without any problems? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for a consultation.