Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing old: we start to hear things less clearly as we grow older. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we start 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 memory loss is regarded as a neutral part of aging. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, mental decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t connected to hearing loss. However, if you look in the right direction, the connection is quite clear: research has shown that there is a substantial chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to socialize.
Why Does Hearing Loss Affect Cognitive Decline?
While there is no proven evidence or conclusive proof that hearing loss leads to cognitive decline and mental health problems, experts are looking at a number of clues that point us in that direction. They have identified two main situations which appear to lead to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Lots of 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 frequently has to work extra hard to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they normally would. When this happens, other parts of the brain, like the one responsible for memory, are tapped for hearing and understanding sound. This overtaxes the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much faster than if the brain could process sounds correctly.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline Using Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health issues, and dementia. Research shows that people increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
Actually, 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 need hearing aids even use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are almost 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for people and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by just a couple million people.