Hearing loss is normally accepted as just another part of getting older: as we age, we begin to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we start forgetting things.
Memory loss is also commonly considered a normal part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread in the older population than the general population at large. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could deal with 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 suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is very clear: studies show that there is a substantial chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to socialize.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
While there is no concrete evidence or conclusive proof that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health issues, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. There are two principal situations they have pinpointed that they believe contribute to issues: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
research has shown 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 that it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. People who are in this scenario tend to begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. The area of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other portion of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to happen much faster than it normally would.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline With Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear letting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense for dealing with 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 fight their hearing loss.
In fact, we would likely see less cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people 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 almost 50 million people who deal with some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will develop exponentially.