Hearing loss is typically accepted as simply a normal part of getting older: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Perhaps the volume on our TV keeps getting louder. We might even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also typically considered a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more common in the senior citizen population than in the general population at large. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And is it possible to maintain your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and cognitive decline
Most individuals don’t connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. But if you look in the right places, you will discover a clear connection: studies reveal that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all affect our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
While there isn’t any concrete finding or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is some connection and numerous clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main scenarios that they think lead to issues: the inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.
Studies have demonstrated that depression and anxiety are often the result of loneliness. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many people 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 result in mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. Eventually, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like holding memories, has to use some of its resources to help the region of the brain responsible for hearing. Cognitive decline will then progress faster than normal as the overworked brain struggles to keep up.
Using hearing aids to prevent 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 decreased risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we may see less cases 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 according to the World Health Organization estimates. 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 be exponentially improved.
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.