Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing older: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less intelligibly. Maybe 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 ya. Perhaps we begin to suffer memory loss.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why loss of memory is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And, even better, what if there were a way for you to treat hearing loss and also preserve your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With about 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is very clear: studies show that there is a serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders 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 have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to socialize.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two principal circumstances they have identified that they think contribute to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. People who are in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health concerns.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears aren’t functioning like they should. When this occurs, other parts of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much quicker than if the brain could process sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see reduced cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are nearly 50 million individuals who suffer from 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 people and families will improve exponentially.