Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing old: we begin to hear things less intelligibly as we get older. Maybe we start turning up the volume on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or perhaps…we start…what was I going to say…oh yes. Maybe we start to suffer memory loss.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why memory loss is considered a neutral part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while taking care of your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With about 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a substantial chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even if you have relatively mild loss of hearing.
Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously 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 connected to hearing loss, experts are looking at several clues that point us in that direction. There are two principal situations they have pinpointed that they think contribute to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
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 events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead to a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
researchers have also found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. The region of the brain that’s in charge of comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, calls for more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the area of the brain that used for memory. This causes cognitive decline to occur much quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health concerns, and dementia. Research shows that people increased their cognitive functions and had a decreased rate of dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
In fact, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who require hearing aids even use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s calculated by the World Health Organization that there are close to 50 million individuals who suffer from some form of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of individuals and families will improve exponentially.