Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of getting older: we start to hear things less distinctly as we get older. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh yes. 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 regarded as a neutral part of aging. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And, even better, what if there were a way to treat hearing loss and also preserve your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t associated with hearing loss. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a substantial chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health concerns, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While there are no concrete findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which appear to lead to issues: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears are not working normally. When this happens, other areas of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot quicker than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our hearing permitting 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 improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see less cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are almost 50 million individuals who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.