Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of growing older: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
Memory loss is also often thought to be a normal part of aging because 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, better yet, what if there were a way for you to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is very clear: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly effected 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 there is no proven finding or definitive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main situations which appear to result in problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too difficult to hear the dialog. People who find themselves in this situation tend to start to isolate themselves which can result in mental health concerns.
Also, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. When this takes place, other areas of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are nearly 50 million people who have some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.