Hearing loss is considered a normal part of growing older: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. 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 memory loss is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But what if there was a connection between the two? And, better yet, what if there was a way to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the link is very clear: if you have hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While there are no solid findings or conclusive proof that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have pinpointed two main situations which seem to result in problems: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. 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 find themselves in this scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears aren’t working like they should. The area of the brain that’s in charge of understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, demands more help from other regions of the brain – namely, the area of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are close to 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will develop exponentially.