Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of the aging process: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps 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 begin to…where was I going with this…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also often thought to be a normal part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t associated with hearing loss. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even if you have fairly 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 seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main scenarios which seem to result in issues: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Lots of people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too difficult to hear the dialog. People who find themselves in this situation often start to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health issues.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. When this occurs, other areas of the brain, like the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot quicker than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research has shown that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced chances for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will develop exponentially.