Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of getting older: as we grow older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we start turning the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we start forgetting things.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why memory loss is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the link is quite 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 fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression 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 problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have pinpointed two main situations which seem to lead to issues: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. These actions lead to a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not working normally. When this occurs, other parts of the brain, like the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much quicker than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids even 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. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.