Hearing loss is considered a normal part of growing old: as we age, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe 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 forget things.
Memory loss is also commonly thought to be a normal part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is quite clear: if you have hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health concerns, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While there is no concrete evidence or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary situations they have identified that they think lead to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people find it’s too hard to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. These actions lead to a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t working like they should. When this takes place, other areas of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are diverted for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much faster than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see less cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million individuals who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will improve exponentially.