Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of growing old: we begin to hear things less clearly as we get older. Perhaps we start turning the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also commonly thought to be a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, even better, what if there were a way for you to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from 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 like depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems 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, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two main situations they have identified that they believe lead to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with other people. Many people find that it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. People who find themselves in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears are not working like they should. The region of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased 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 might see fewer cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids even use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million individuals who have some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will improve exponentially.