Hearing loss is considered a typical part of growing old: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning the volume up on the TV, or perhaps…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we begin to forget things.
Memory loss is also usually considered a regular part of aging because dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more widespread in the senior citizen population than the general population. But is it possible that the two are connected somehow? And, better yet, what if there were a way to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and your mental health?
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 mental decline and dementia. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right direction: research has shown that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to be social.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While there is no proven evidence or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. They have pinpointed two main scenarios which appear to result in problems: your brain working harder than it would normally have to and social isolation.
research has shown 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 other people. Lots of people can’t enjoy things like attending a movie because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. These actions lead to a path of solitude, which can lead to mental health issues.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work extra hard because the ears aren’t functioning normally. The part of the brain that’s responsible for comprehending sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other regions of the brain – namely, the area of the brain that used for memory. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much quicker than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Wearing Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our hearing letting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research shows that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, we would probably see less cases 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 accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million people who deal with some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically improved for people and families if hearing aids can reduce that number by even a couple million people.