Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing old: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe 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 begin to…where was I going with this…oh yes. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
Memory loss is also commonly thought to be a regular part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot 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 caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is quite clear: studies show that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems including depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who have 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 is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary situations they have identified that they believe lead to problems: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Lots of 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 issues.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work extra hard to make up for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. When this happens, other areas of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot faster than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research shows that people increased their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are close to 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.