Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing old: we begin to hear things less clearly as we age. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we start forgetting things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the elderly population. That’s why loss of memory is considered a normal part of aging. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And, even better, what if there were a way for you to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: if you have hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While there is no concrete evidence or conclusive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two main situations they have identified that they think contribute to issues: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people find it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. People who find themselves in this situation often begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health problems.
researchers have also discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. When this happens, other regions of the brain, like the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot faster than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced chances for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to combat 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, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lessen that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will develop exponentially.