Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of getting older: we begin to hear things less clearly as we get older. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the elderly population. That’s why loss of memory is considered a neutral part of aging. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could deal with 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 who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two primary circumstances they have pinpointed that they believe lead to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find that it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. People who are in this situation often begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health concerns.
Also, 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. The area of the brain that’s responsible for comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other portion of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that used for memory. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much faster than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. 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 suffer from some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will improve exponentially.