Hearing loss is usually accepted as simply a normal part of the aging process: as we age, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Maybe the volume on our TV keeps going up. We may even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also commonly seen as a normal part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the younger population. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And is it possible to protect your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Most individuals don’t connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the appropriate places: studies reveal that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Individuals who cope with hearing loss also frequently have mental health problems like depression and anxiety. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all impact our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
There is a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there’s a direct cause and effect association, experts are exploring some persuasive clues. They think two main scenarios are responsible: the inability to interact socially and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness brings about depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many individuals find it difficult to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. Mental health issues can be the outcome of this path of isolation.
Studies have also revealed that when somebody has hearing loss, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the reduced stimulation. Ultimately, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like holding memories, has to use some of its resources to help the region of the brain responsible for hearing. This overworks the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to stop mental decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
We would see fewer instances of cognitive decline and mental health issues if more individuals would just wear their hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. Almost 50 million individuals cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. For many people and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can reduce that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to begin hearing better – and remembering things without any trouble? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for a consultation.