Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of getting older: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we start turning the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also usually thought to be a regular part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more prevalent in the senior citizen population than the general population. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is quite clear: research has shown that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues including 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 proven evidence or definitive proof that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary circumstances they have pinpointed that they think lead to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness brings about depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These situations lead to a path of solitude, which can lead to mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime to make up for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. The region of the brain that’s in charge of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the area of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research has shown that people increased their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see reduced cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 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 lower that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will develop exponentially.