Hearing loss is usually accepted as simply another part of the aging process: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Maybe the volume on our TV keeps getting louder. We may even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also commonly regarded as a standard part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. But is it possible that there’s a link between the two? And, even better, what if there was a way to address hearing loss and also maintain your memories and mental health?
The link between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia are not commonly connected to hearing loss. But if you look in the right places, you will see a clear link: 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 relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in individuals who suffer from hearing loss. The key point here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all influence our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
There is a connection between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no solid proof that there is a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are investigating some persuasive clues. They believe two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working harder to hear and social solitude.
Countless studies show that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And people aren’t as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many people with hearing loss find it’s too hard to participate in conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. Ultimately, the part of the brain responsible for 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 develop faster than normal as the overworked brain struggles to keep up.
Using hearing aids to stop cognitive decline
The weapon against mental health issues and mental decline is hearing aids. When people use hearing aids to deal with hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a lower risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we may see fewer instances of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Of all the individuals who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually wear them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. Nearly 50 million individuals cope with dementia as reported by the World Health Organization estimates. For many individuals and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to begin hearing better – and remembering things without any trouble? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for an appointment.