Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of getting older: as we age, 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 notice that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also often regarded as a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more widespread in the senior citizen population than in the younger population at large. But is it possible that there’s a link between the two? And, even better, what if there was a way to treat hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
The connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Most individuals do not associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. Nevertheless, the link is very clear if you look in the right places: studies show that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in individuals who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize is impacted by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
While there isn’t any concrete finding or definitive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is some link and several clues that experts are looking at. They think two main scenarios are responsible: the inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Studies have revealed that anxiety and depression are often the result of loneliness. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Many individuals find it hard to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. These actions lead to isolation, which can bring about mental health problems.
In addition, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. Ultimately, the part of the brain in charge of other tasks, like holding memories, has to use some of its resources to help the part of the brain responsible for hearing. This overworks the brain and causes mental decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to stop cognitive decline
The first line of defense against mental health problems and cognitive decline is hearing aids. When patients use hearing aids to deal with hearing loss, studies have revealed that they were at a lower risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer instances of mental health issues 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. Almost 50 million people cope with dementia as reported by the World Health Organization estimates. For many people and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can reduce that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to start hearing better – and remembering things without any problems? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for an appointment.