Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of the aging process: we start to hear things less clearly as we grow older. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why memory loss is considered a normal part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who suffer from 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 is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While there is no concrete evidence or definitive proof that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is definitely some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main situations which seem to lead to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people find that it’s too hard to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These situations lead to a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
researchers have also discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning normally. When this takes place, other regions of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot faster than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see reduced cases of mental health concerns 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 nearly 50 million individuals who have some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will develop exponentially.