Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of getting older: we start to hear things less clearly as we age. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or maybe…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 older population. That’s why loss of memory is considered a normal part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, even better, what if there was a way for you to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With about 30 million people 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 very clear: if you have hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While there are no solid findings or conclusive proof that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two main circumstances they have pinpointed that they believe lead to issues: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as 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 situations lead to a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain often has to work extra hard to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. The area of the brain that’s responsible for comprehending sounds, such as voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that used for memory. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much quicker than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear letting 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 had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health issues 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 individuals who suffer from some form of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will improve exponentially.