Hearing loss is considered a normal part of growing older: we start to hear things less clearly as we grow older. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we begin to suffer memory loss.
Memory loss is also often considered a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is very clear: studies show that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health concerns, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two main circumstances they have pinpointed that they believe contribute 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 not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health concerns.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t working like they should. The area of the brain that’s responsible for comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other portion of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our hearing permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that people improved their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might 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. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for people and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.