Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh yes. Maybe we begin to forget things.
Loss of memory is also commonly thought of as a normal part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more prevalent in the senior citizen 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 Mental Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right direction: studies show that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health problems like anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly effected 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 there are no solid findings or definitive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main situations which appear to lead to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people find it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. People who are in this scenario often begin to isolate themselves which can result in mental health concerns.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t functioning like they should. The area of the brain which is in charge of understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other portion of the brain – namely, the area of the brain that used for memory. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much quicker than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our ability to hear permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced chances for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
In fact, we would probably see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are close to 50 million individuals who have some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.