Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just a normal part of getting older: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we start turning up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we begin to forget things?
Memory loss is also typically regarded as a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more prevalent in the senior citizen population than in the younger population at large. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And is it possible to maintain your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
The link between mental decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia are not commonly connected to hearing loss. But if you look in the appropriate places, you will see a clear connection: studies show that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Individuals who have hearing loss also often have mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Your ability to socialize is affected by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why does hearing loss affect cognitive decline?
While there is no concrete finding or definitive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is some association and several clues that experts are looking at. They think two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working harder to hear and social isolation.
Countless studies show that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And when people have hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with other people. Many people with hearing loss find it’s too difficult to participate in conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. Eventually, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like remembering, has to use some of its resources to help the part of the brain responsible for hearing. Cognitive decline will then develop faster than normal as the overworked brain struggles to keep up.
Using hearing aids to stop cognitive decline
The weapon against mental health issues and mental decline is hearing aids. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
We would see fewer cases of cognitive decline and mental health issues if more people would just use their hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some kind of dementia. For many people and families, the quality of life will be enhanced if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to begin hearing better – and remembering things without any trouble? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for an appointment.