Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we begin to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also usually thought of as a normal part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more widespread in the older population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And, better still, what if there was a way for you to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t associated with hearing loss. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is very clear: if you have hearing loss, there is considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health concerns, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While there is no proven evidence or definitive evidence that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main situations which seem to result in issues: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. 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 are in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can cause mental health concerns.
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. The part of the brain which is responsible for understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the area of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to happen much quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear letting 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 increased their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, we would most likely see fewer cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are close to 50 million individuals who deal with some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by just a couple million people.