Hearing loss is thought of as a typical part of growing older: as we age, we start to hear things a little less intelligibly. Perhaps we need to keep asking the grandkids to repeat themselves when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Maybe we begin to forget things.
The general population has a much lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s why loss of memory is regarded as a normal part of aging. But what if there was a connection between the two? And what if you could treat your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?
Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
With almost 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, most of them do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. However, if you look in the right direction, the link is quite clear: research has shown that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even if you have fairly mild hearing loss.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also pretty prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The main point is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all have an effect on our ability to socialize.
Why Does Hearing Loss Impact Cognitive Decline?
While there are no concrete findings or conclusive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is clearly some connection and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two primary circumstances they have identified that they believe contribute to problems: failure to socialize and your brain working overtime.
research has shown that loneliness goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. And people are not as 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 isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work extra hard to compensate for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. The part of the brain which is in control of understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, demands more help from other areas of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This causes cognitive decline to happen much faster than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our ability to hear allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a lower chances for developing dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
As a matter of fact, we would probably see fewer instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people actually wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people 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 almost 50 million individuals who have some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can lessen that figure by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for lots of people and families will improve exponentially.