Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing old: we begin to hear things less intelligibly as we grow older. Perhaps we begin to turn the volume up on the TV, or keep asking our grandkids to repeat themselves when they’re talking to us, or maybe…we start…what was I going to say…oh ya. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
Loss of memory is also usually considered a normal part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more common in the older population than the general population. But could it be that the two are connected somehow? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Cognitive Decline And Hearing Loss
With almost 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, the connection is very clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild loss of hearing.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to socialize.
Why is Cognitive Decline Connected to Hearing Loss?
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 situations which seem to result in issues: failure to socialize and your brain working extra time.
research has shown that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And people are less likely to socialize when they are dealing with hearing loss. Many people can’t enjoy events like attending a movie because they find it too difficult to hear the dialog. These situations lead down a path of solitude, 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, like the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and understanding sound. This causes cognitive decline to occur a lot quicker than it normally would.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids are our first defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. Research shows that patients improved their cognitive functions and had a lower rate of dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
Actually, we would likely see fewer cases of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need 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 deal with some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically improved for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.