Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing older: as we age, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Maybe we start turning the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the elderly population. That’s the reason why memory loss is considered a normal part of aging. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is quite clear: studies show that there is a significant chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from 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 is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While there is no proven evidence or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two primary circumstances they have identified that they believe contribute to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. These actions lead to a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears are not working like they should. The part of the brain which is in control of understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to happen much faster than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are nearly 50 million individuals who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will improve exponentially.