As we get older we start to have difficulty hearing clearly and we typically just accept it as a normal part of aging. Maybe we begin to turn up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps we begin to forget things?
Memory loss is also often regarded as a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread in the senior citizen population than in the general population at large. But is it possible that there’s a link between the two? And is it possible to safeguard your mental health and address hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and mental decline
Most individuals do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
People who have hearing loss also often have mental health problems including anxiety and depression. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all impact our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline impacted by hearing loss?
There is a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no solid proof that there’s a direct cause and effect association, experts are exploring some compelling clues. They believe two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working extra hard to hear and social separation.
Studies have shown that anxiety and depression are often the result of loneliness. And people are not as likely to socialize with others when they cope with hearing loss. Many individuals with hearing loss find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. Mental health problems can be the outcome of this path of solitude.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. Eventually, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like remembering, has to use some of its resources to help the region of the brain responsible for hearing. This overtaxes the brain and causes mental decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to prevent mental decline
The first line of defense against mental health issues and mental decline is hearing aids. When patients use hearing aids to deal with hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a reduced risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
We would see fewer cases of cognitive decline and mental health problems if more individuals would just use their hearing aids. Of all the people who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually wear them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. Almost 50 million individuals cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. For many people and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to begin hearing better – and remembering things without any issue? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for a consultation.