As we get older we start to have trouble hearing clearly and we normally just accept it as a normal part of aging. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps we start to forget things?
Loss of memory is also commonly viewed as a normal part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the younger population. But what if the two were in some way related? And is it possible to protect your mental health and address hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Cognitive decline and dementia aren’t commonly connected to hearing loss. Nevertheless, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize is impacted by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
There is a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there is a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are exploring some persuasive clues. They think two main situations are responsible: your brain working harder to hear and social isolation.
Countless studies show that solitude results in anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they have hearing loss. Many individuals find it hard to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. Mental health issues can be the outcome of this path of isolation.
Studies have also shown that when someone has hearing impairment, the brain has to work overtime to compensate for the reduced stimulation. Ultimately, the part of the brain in charge of other tasks, like holding memories, has to use some of its resources to help the part of the brain responsible for hearing. Mental decline will then progress faster than normal as the overworked brain struggles to keep up.
How to fight cognitive decline with hearing aids
The first line of defense against mental health problems and cognitive decline is hearing aids. When people use hearing aids to manage hearing loss, studies have revealed that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we may see less cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. Nearly 50 million people cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. For many individuals and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can reduce that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to improve your hearing and safeguard your memory at the same time? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for an appointment.