Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of the aging process: as we age, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to turn up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
Memory loss is also usually thought to be a regular part of getting older because dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread in the senior citizen population than the general population at large. But could it be that the two are somehow connected? And, even better, what if there was a way to treat hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States who have hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right places: research has shown that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like ailments if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also fairly 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 Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there are no solid findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking at. There are two main circumstances they have identified that they believe contribute to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this scenario tend to start to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears are not functioning like they should. The part of the brain which is responsible for understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that used for memory. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids restore our hearing 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 were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, we would most likely see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million people who have some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.