Hearing loss is considered a typical part of the aging process: as we grow older, 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 repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Maybe we start to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also often thought to be a normal part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the older population than the general population. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is quite clear: if you have hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to socialize.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there are no concrete findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two principal circumstances they have pinpointed that they believe contribute to issues: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find that it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. These actions lead to a path of isolation, which can result in mental health issues.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears aren’t working normally. When this occurs, other regions of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and comprehending sound. This overtaxes the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much faster than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
Actually, we would most likely see less cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. 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 estimated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will develop exponentially.