Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of the aging process: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less distinctly. Perhaps 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 maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we start to lose our memory.
Loss of memory is also usually thought to be a regular part of getting older as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more common in the senior citizen population than the general population. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And, better yet, what if there were a way to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for the majority of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: if you suffer from hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also fairly 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 is Cognitive Decline Linked to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two main circumstances they have identified that they believe lead to issues: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These situations lead to a path of isolation, which can result in mental health issues.
researchers have also discovered that the brain often has to work overtime because the ears aren’t working like they should. When this happens, other regions of the brain, like the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and understanding sound. This overburdened the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much faster than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Stop Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research shows that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
In fact, we would most likely see less 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 reports that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some form of dementia. If hearing aids can lessen that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will develop exponentially.