Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of growing old: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe 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…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we start to suffer memory loss.
Loss of memory is also commonly thought of as a regular 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 connected somehow? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main scenarios which seem to result in issues: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness leads to depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find that it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. People who find themselves in this situation tend to start to isolate themselves which can cause mental health problems.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. When this occurs, other regions of the brain, including the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and comprehending sound. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much quicker than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids restore our hearing permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
As a matter of 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 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 individuals who deal with some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can lessen that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will develop exponentially.