Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing old: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
Loss of memory is also usually thought of as a normal part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more widespread in the older population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right direction: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues like anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there are no solid findings or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which appear to result in issues: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with 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 to a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears are not functioning like they should. When this occurs, other parts of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to take place much quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our hearing allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see less cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million people who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.