Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we age, we start to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps 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 perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we start to suffer memory loss.
Memory loss is also usually considered a normal part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And, better still, what if there were a way for you to manage hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is quite clear: 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 impairment.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have 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 Related to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two principal situations they have identified that they believe contribute to issues: your brain working extra hard 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. Many people find it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. When this occurs, other parts of the brain, like the one used for memory, are tapped for hearing and understanding sound. This overtaxes the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much faster than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear letting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that people increased their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of 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 people who need hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million people who have some form of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will improve exponentially.