Hearing loss is considered a normal part of the aging process: as we grow older, we start to hear things a little less distinctly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also usually thought of as a normal part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more widespread in the older population than the general population at large. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, better yet, what if there was a way for you to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the link is quite clear: studies show that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While there is no concrete finding or definitive proof that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two main situations they have identified that they believe contribute to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness results in depression and anxiety. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead to a path of solitude, which can result in mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work overtime to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. When this happens, other parts of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot faster than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
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 people improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, we would most likely see less instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are close to 50 million individuals who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for people and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by just a couple million people.