As we age we begin to have trouble hearing clearly and we typically just accept it as a normal part of aging. Maybe we begin to turn the volume up on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps we begin forgetting things?
Loss of memory is also often 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 link between the two? And is it possible to maintain your mental health and address hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and cognitive decline
Most individuals don’t associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. But if you look in the right places, you will see a clear connection: studies show that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
People who cope with hearing loss also frequently deal with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. The key point here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all influence our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline impacted by hearing loss?
While there is no concrete finding or definitive 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 pinpointed two main scenarios that they think lead to issues: the inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Studies have demonstrated that depression and anxiety are frequently the result of loneliness. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they have hearing loss. Many individuals with hearing loss find it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
Studies have also revealed that when someone has hearing impairment, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the diminished stimulation. Eventually, the part of the brain in charge of other tasks, like holding memories, has to use some of its resources to help the region of the brain responsible for hearing. Cognitive decline will then progress faster than normal as the overtaxed brain strains to keep up.
Using hearing aids to prevent mental decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a lower 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 people would just wear their hearing aids. Of all the individuals who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually wear them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. Nearly 50 million people cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will be exponentially improved.
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 an appointment.