Hearing loss is thought of as a normal part of growing older: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe 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 begin to…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the elderly population. That’s the reason why loss of memory is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But what if there was a connection between the two? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With about 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right place, the connection is very clear: studies show that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also quite prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health concerns, and cognitive decline all have an impact on our ability to be social.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there is no proven evidence or definitive evidence that hearing loss results in cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some link and several clues that experts are looking into. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which appear to result in problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that loneliness brings about anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they suffer from hearing loss. Many people find it’s too hard to have conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like the movie theater. These situations lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health issues.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears aren’t functioning like they should. The region of the brain that’s in control of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, demands more help from other regions of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that used for memory. This overburdened the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our hearing allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
In fact, we would most likely see fewer cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are close to 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.