Hearing loss is considered a typical part of the aging process: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less intelligibly. Maybe we start turning 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. Maybe we begin to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also often thought to be a normal part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more common in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: 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 fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all have an impact 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, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main situations which appear to lead to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness brings about depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with other people. Many people find it’s too hard to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. People who are in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
Also, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work overtime to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. When this happens, other parts of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are tapped for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our hearing allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that patients improved their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, we would probably see less instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million individuals who deal with some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will develop exponentially.