As we age we start to have trouble hearing clearly and we normally just accept it as a normal part of aging. Maybe we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Perhaps the volume on our TV keeps going up. We may even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also frequently seen as a normal part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the younger population. But what if the two were in some way connected? And could it be possible to maintain your mental health and treat hearing loss at the same time?
The link between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Most people don’t associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the appropriate places: studies show that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in individuals who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all affect our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline impacted by hearing loss?
While there isn’t any solid finding or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is some association and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main scenarios that they think result in issues: your brain working harder to hear and social solitude.
Many studies show that solitude leads to anxiety and depression. And when people have hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Many people who suffered from hearing loss find it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. Mental health problems can be the outcome of this path of isolation.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. The region of the brain that processes sounds, like voices in a conversation, needs more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. Cognitive decline will then progress faster than normal as the overworked brain strains to keep up.
How to fight cognitive decline with hearing aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Studies show that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we may see less instances of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Of all the people who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually use them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. Nearly 50 million individuals cope with dementia as reported by the World Health Organization estimates. For many individuals and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to improve your hearing and safeguard your memory at the same time? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for an appointment.