Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing old: we begin to hear things less clearly as we grow older. Maybe we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we start forgetting things.
Memory loss is also commonly thought of as a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With about 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is very clear: studies show that there is a substantial chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly effected 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 there are no concrete findings or conclusive proof that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two principal situations they have pinpointed that they believe lead to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too hard to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. These situations lead to a path of solitude, which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work extra hard to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. The region of the brain that’s in control of comprehending sounds, such as voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other regions of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much quicker than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research shows that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a reduced chances for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
Actually, we would likely see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are close to 50 million individuals who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.