Hearing loss is considered a normal part of the aging process: as we grow older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
Loss of memory is also usually thought of as a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more widespread in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And, even better, what if there were a way for you to treat hearing loss and also preserve your memories and your mental health?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t associated with hearing loss. However, if you look in the right place, the link is very clear: research has shown that there is a substantial chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also have hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is obviously some link and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two primary scenarios they have pinpointed that they believe contribute to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Lots of people can’t enjoy events like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who find themselves in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can bring about mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t functioning normally. When this occurs, other parts of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot faster than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our hearing allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, we would most likely see less cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.