Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of getting older: we begin to hear things less intelligibly as we age. Maybe we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh yes. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
Loss of memory is also usually considered a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the older population than the general population at large. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? 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 almost 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is very clear: studies show that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main situations which appear to lead to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy things like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead down a path of solitude, which can result in mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. When this takes place, other parts of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and comprehending sound. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our hearing allowing 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 increased their cognitive functions and were at a reduced chances for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
In fact, we would probably see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids even use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million individuals who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for people and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.