Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we start turning up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we begin to forget things.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why loss of memory is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And what if you could manage your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, the link is very 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 relatively mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues including depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from 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 Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two primary circumstances they have identified that they think lead to issues: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
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. Many people find that it’s too difficult to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. People who find themselves in this scenario tend to start to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health issues.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears aren’t functioning normally. The part of the brain that’s in charge of comprehending sounds, such as voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the area of the brain that used for memory. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in 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 concerns, and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see less cases of mental health concerns 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 estimated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million individuals who have some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.