Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of the aging process: we begin to hear things less clearly as we get older. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we begin to suffer memory loss.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s why loss of memory is considered a neutral part of aging. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues including depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked 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 several clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary situations they have pinpointed that they believe contribute to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Lots of people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These situations lead down a path of solitude, which can lead to mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t functioning like they should. The region of the brain which is responsible for comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other areas of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot quicker than it normally would.
Using 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 patients increased their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, we would most likely see fewer cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are almost 50 million people who have some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lower that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.