Hearing loss is considered a typical part of getting older: we start to hear things less clearly as we grow older. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also often thought of as a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more widespread in the older population than the general population. 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 preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With about 30 million individuals in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t associated with hearing loss. However, if you look in the right place, the link is very clear: if you have hearing loss, there is considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from 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 Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two primary scenarios they have identified that they think contribute to problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with other people. Many people find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. People who find themselves in this situation often begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health concerns.
Also, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not working like they should. When this occurs, other regions of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen much quicker than it normally would.
How to Avoid 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 increased their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss using hearing aids.
In fact, we would likely see fewer cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people 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 almost 50 million people who suffer from some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many people and families will improve exponentially.