Hearing loss is typically accepted as simply another part of the aging process: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we start turning up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we start forgetting things?
Loss of memory is also frequently viewed as a standard part of aging because the senior population is more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. But what if the two were somehow connected? And is it possible to protect your mental health and address hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and cognitive decline
Mental decline and dementia aren’t usually associated with hearing loss. But if you look in the right places, you will discover a clear link: if you have hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have revealed there’s a considerable risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in individuals 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 does hearing loss impact cognitive decline?
There is a connection between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there is a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are exploring some compelling clues. They have pinpointed two main scenarios that they think lead to issues: your brain working harder to hear and social isolation.
Countless studies show that isolation results in depression and anxiety. And people aren’t as likely to socialize with others when they have hearing loss. Many individuals who suffered from hearing loss find it’s too difficult to participate in conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. Mental health issues can be the outcome of this path of solitude.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. The part of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that stores memories. Cognitive decline will then progress faster than normal as the overtaxed brain struggles to keep up.
Using hearing aids to prevent cognitive decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. When people use hearing aids to address hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a lower risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually 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 form of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce that number by even just a couple of million people, the quality of life for many individuals and families will improve exponentially.
Are you ready to improve your hearing and maintain your memory at the same time? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for a consultation.