Hearing loss is typically accepted as just another part of getting older: we start to hear things less clearly as we grow older. Maybe 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 maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to lose our memory.
Memory loss is also usually considered a normal part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more widespread in the senior citizen population than the general population. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and protecting your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at fairly low levels of 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 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 there are no solid findings or conclusive evidence that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is obviously some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two primary circumstances 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 leads to anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too difficult to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario often start to isolate themselves which can result in mental health concerns.
Also, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. When this takes place, other areas of the brain, such as the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur much quicker than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
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 had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
In fact, we would probably see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need 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 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 many people and families will develop exponentially.