Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of the aging process: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we start to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also often thought to be a regular part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more prevalent in the older population than the general population at large. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also have hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary circumstances they have pinpointed that they believe lead to issues: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness results in depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with others. Lots of people can’t enjoy events like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These situations lead down a path of solitude, which can result in mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning normally. When this takes place, other areas of the brain, like the one responsible for memory, are utilized for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to take place a lot faster than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
In fact, we would most likely see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually 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 have some form of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will develop exponentially.