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 intelligibly. Perhaps we start turning 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 begin to lose our memory.
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 considered a neutral part of aging. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And, better still, what if there were a way to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a significant chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While there is no proven evidence or definitive proof that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is definitely some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main scenarios which seem to result in problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
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 find themselves in this situation tend to start to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
Also, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work extra hard because the ears are not working like they should. When this occurs, other areas of the brain, such as the one used for memory, are utilized for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot faster than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear allowing 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 reduced rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million people who have some form of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for people and families if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.