Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of getting older: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s why loss of memory is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the link is quite clear: studies show that there is a significant chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted 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 there is no proven evidence or conclusive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two main situations they have identified that they believe contribute to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Many people can’t enjoy things like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can cause mental health concerns.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t functioning normally. The area of the brain that’s responsible for comprehending sounds, such as voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot quicker than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our hearing permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
Actually, we would probably see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for 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 kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.