Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
Loss of memory is also usually thought to be a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And, better still, what if there was a way to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is quite clear: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main situations which seem to lead to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who find themselves in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t working normally. The area of the brain which is in charge of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the area of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot faster than it normally would.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are close to 50 million individuals who have some form of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.