Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of the aging process: we start to hear things less distinctly as we grow older. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to start turning up the volume on the TV, or perhaps…we begin to…where was I going with this…oh ya. Perhaps we start forgetting things.
The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why loss of memory is regarded as a normal part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And, even better, what if there were a way to treat hearing loss and also protect your memories and mental health?
Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
With nearly 30 million people in the United States suffering from hearing loss, cognitive decline and dementia, for most of them, isn’t linked to hearing loss. However, the link is very clear if you look in the right direction: studies show that there is a serious chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing loss.
Mental health problems including depression and anxiety are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health issues and that’s the real key here.
Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?
While cognitive decline and mental health problems 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 identified two main situations which seem to result in problems: your brain working extra hard have to and social isolation.
research has shown that loneliness leads to anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with other people. Many people can’t enjoy events like going to the movies because they find it too hard to hear the dialog. People who are in this situation tend to begin to isolate themselves which can lead to mental health problems.
researchers have also discovered that the brain often has to work overtime to compensate for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they normally would. When this happens, other areas of the brain, including the one used for memory, are diverted for hearing and comprehending sound. This causes cognitive decline to happen a lot faster than it normally would.
Using Hearing Aids to Stop Cognitive Decline
Hearing aids improve our hearing allowing the brain to use it’s resources in a normal manner which is our best defense against cognitive decline and dementia. Studies show that patients increased their cognitive functions and had a reduced rate of dementia when they managed their hearing loss with hearing aids.
Actually, we would likely see less instances of dementia and cognitive decline if more people wore hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids even use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there are nearly 50 million individuals who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be dramatically enhanced for individuals and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by just a couple million people.