Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing old: we start to hear things less intelligibly as we get older. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we begin to suffer memory loss.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s why loss of memory is considered a neutral part of aging. 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?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right direction: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health problems like anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is obviously some link and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two main situations they have identified that they think contribute to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness brings about depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this situation often start to isolate themselves which can result in mental health issues.
Also, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears aren’t functioning like they should. The part of the brain which is in charge of understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other regions of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot quicker than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
Actually, we would likely see less instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lessen that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will develop exponentially.