Hearing loss is typically accepted as simply a normal part of getting older: as we age, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we start turning the volume up on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we begin forgetting things?
Loss of memory is also typically considered a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than in the younger population at large. But what if the two were in some way connected? And, even better, what if there was a way to manage hearing loss and also safeguard your memories and mental health?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Most people do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. Nevertheless, the link is very clear if you look in the appropriate places: studies show that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Individuals who have hearing loss also often have mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all affect our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
There is a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no solid proof that there’s a direct cause and effect association, experts are exploring some compelling clues. They believe two main situations are responsible: the inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Studies have revealed that anxiety and depression are often the result of isolation. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many people who suffered from 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 to isolation, which can bring about mental health problems.
Studies have also shown that when someone has hearing loss, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the reduced stimulation. Ultimately, the part of the brain in charge of other tasks, like holding memories, has to use some of its resources to help the part of the brain responsible for hearing. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
How to prevent cognitive decline with hearing aids
The first line of defense against mental health problems and mental decline is hearing aids. When people use hearing aids to address hearing loss, studies have revealed that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
We would see fewer instances of cognitive decline and mental health problems if more people would just wear their hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. Nearly 50 million individuals cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. If hearing aids can reduce 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 improve your hearing and maintain your memory at the same time? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for an appointment.