As we age we begin to have trouble hearing clearly and we usually just accept it as a normal part of growing older. Maybe we begin to turn the volume up on the TV or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we start to forget things?
Loss of memory is also often viewed as a normal part of aging because the senior population is more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. But what if the two were in some way related? And is it possible to maintain your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Most individuals don’t connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Individuals who have hearing loss also frequently have mental health issues including depression and anxiety. Your ability to socialize is affected by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why does hearing loss affect cognitive decline?
There is a link between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there is a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are exploring some compelling clues. They have identified two main scenarios that they think lead to issues: the inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that isolation results in anxiety and depression. And when people have hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Many individuals with hearing loss find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. Mental health issues can be the outcome of this path of solitude.
Studies have also revealed that when someone has hearing loss, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the reduced stimulation. The part of the brain that processes sounds, such as voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. Mental decline will then progress faster than normal as the overtaxed brain struggles to keep up.
Using hearing aids to stop mental decline
The first line of defense against mental health problems and mental decline is hearing aids. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a lower risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
We would see fewer cases of cognitive decline and mental health issues if more individuals would just use their hearing aids. Of all the individuals who need hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually use them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. Nearly 50 million individuals cope with dementia as reported by the World Health Organization estimates. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.
Are you ready to improve your hearing and maintain your memory at the same time? Get in touch with us today and make an appointment for a consultation to find out if hearing aids are right for you and to get on the path to better mental health.