Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of the aging process: we begin to hear things less clearly as we grow older. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning the volume up on the TV, or perhaps…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh yes. Maybe we start forgetting things.
Memory loss is also often thought to be a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more widespread in the older population than the general population. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the link is very clear: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also pretty 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 Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two principal situations they have pinpointed that they think contribute to issues: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy events like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead to a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. When this takes place, other regions of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that people increased their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
Actually, we would likely see fewer cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million people who have some form of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.