Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we age, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh yes. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
Memory loss is also commonly thought of as a regular part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is very clear: studies show that there is a serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also have hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild hearing loss.
Mental health problems including depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While there is no proven evidence or conclusive evidence that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health problems, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. They have pinpointed two main situations which seem to result in problems: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Many people find it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These situations lead down a path of solitude, which can result in mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain often has to work overtime to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. When this happens, other regions of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and understanding sound. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much quicker than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
Actually, we would probably see fewer cases 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 makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million people who have some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will develop exponentially.