Hearing loss is considered a normal part of the aging process: as we grow older, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Maybe we begin to lose our memory.
Memory loss is also often thought to be a normal part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And, better still, what if there was a way to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is very clear: research has shown that there is a substantial 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 quite prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which seem to lead to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Lots of people can’t enjoy events like attending a movie because they find it too difficult to hear the dialog. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
Also, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. The region of the brain that’s in charge of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other areas of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are close to 50 million people who have some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.