Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of the aging process: we start to hear things less intelligibly as we age. Maybe we begin to turn up the volume 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. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the elderly population. That’s why loss of memory is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
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 connection is very clear if you look in the right places: research has shown that there is a serious 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.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health concerns, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems 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 main scenarios they have identified that they believe lead to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These situations lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
Also, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work extra hard to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. The part of the brain which is in charge of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other areas of the brain – namely, the area of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot quicker than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lessen that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.