Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of the aging process: we start to hear things less distinctly as we get older. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to suffer memory loss.
The general population has a far 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 what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is very clear: research has shown that there is a serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues 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 pinpointed two main situations which appear to lead to issues: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people find 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 scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can bring about mental health concerns.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. When this happens, other parts of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to take place much faster than it normally would.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a reduced chances for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.