Hearing loss is considered a normal part of growing old: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
Loss of memory is also usually thought of as a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than the general population. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
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. They have identified two main scenarios which appear to lead to issues: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. People who find themselves in this situation often begin to isolate themselves which can bring about mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work extra hard to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. When this takes place, other regions of the brain, including the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that people increased their cognitive functions and were at a lower risk for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, we would probably see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are close to 50 million individuals who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will improve exponentially.