Hearing loss is considered a typical part of the aging process: as we age, 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 speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
Memory loss is also often considered a normal part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread in the older population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is quite clear: research has shown that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems including depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is definitely some link and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two principal scenarios they have identified that they believe lead to problems: failure 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. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too difficult to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can cause mental health problems.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears aren’t working like they should. The area of the brain which is in control of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other regions of the brain – namely, the area of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to occur much faster than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our hearing allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced chances for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see less cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million people who have some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.