Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing old: we begin to hear things less distinctly as we get older. Perhaps 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 maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Maybe we begin to suffer memory loss.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why memory loss is considered a normal part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, better still, what if there were a way for you to manage hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild hearing loss.
Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted 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 cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be connected to hearing loss, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two primary situations they have pinpointed that they believe contribute to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of solitude, which can result in mental health issues.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain often has to work extra hard to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. When this occurs, other regions of the brain, like the one used 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 are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are close to 50 million individuals who have some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.