Hearing loss is considered a normal part of growing older: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less intelligibly. 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…what was I going to say…oh ya. Maybe we start forgetting things.
Loss of memory is also commonly considered a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the older population than the general population at large. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And, better yet, what if there was a way to manage hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With about 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, if you look in the right place, the link is quite clear: if you have hearing loss, there is considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to numerous studies – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be significantly impacted by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While cognitive decline and mental health issues haven’t been definitively proven to be linked to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which seem to result in problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who find themselves in this situation tend to start to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work overtime because the ears are not functioning like they should. When this happens, other regions of the brain, including the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This overtaxes the brain and leads to the onset of cognitive decline much faster than if the brain was processing sounds normally.
How to Avoid Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that people increased their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk for developing dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
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 people who require hearing aids actually use them, that’s 4.5 to 9 million people. The World Health Organization reports that there are close to 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for individuals and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.