Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we begin to forget things.
Memory loss is also often considered a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While there are no concrete findings or conclusive proof that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary scenarios they have identified that they think contribute to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health issues.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears are not working like they should. The area of the brain which is in charge of comprehending sounds, such as voices in a conversation, demands more help from other regions of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot faster than it normally would.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research shows that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
In fact, we would probably see less cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids even use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million individuals who have some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.