Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of getting older: we start to hear things less clearly as we age. Maybe we start turning up the volume 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. Maybe we begin to forget things.
Loss of memory is also usually thought to be a normal part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And, even better, what if there was a way for you to treat hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a significant chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to be social.
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 a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two principal scenarios they have pinpointed that they think lead to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown that loneliness brings about depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health concerns.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain often has to work extra hard to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. The part of the brain that’s in charge of understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, requires more help from other portion of the brain – specifically, the area of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot faster than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Studies show that people improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
In fact, we would most likely see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are close to 50 million individuals who deal with some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for people and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.