Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of getting older: we begin to hear things less intelligibly as we age. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh yes. Maybe we begin to forget things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why loss of memory is considered a normal part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With almost 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, the connection is quite 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 many studies – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems 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 is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is definitely some link and several clues that experts are looking at. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which appear to result in issues: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown 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 other people. Lots of people can’t enjoy events like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario often start to isolate themselves which can bring about mental health issues.
Also, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work overtime to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. The part of the brain that’s in charge of understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other regions of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much quicker than if the brain could process sounds normally.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Studies show that people increased their cognitive functions and were at a decreased chances for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. 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 almost 50 million people who have some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will develop exponentially.