Hearing loss is typically accepted as just a normal part of getting older: 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. Perhaps the volume on our TV keeps going up. We may even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also often seen as a standard part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the younger population. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And could it be possible to maintain your mental health and treat hearing loss at the same time?
The link between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia aren’t typically associated with hearing loss. 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 suffer from hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues such as 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 impact our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
While there is no 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 believe two main scenarios are responsible: the inability to interact socially and your brain working overtime.
Studies have shown 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 with hearing loss find it’s too difficult to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. Mental health problems can be the result of this path of isolation.
Studies have also revealed that when somebody has hearing loss, the brain has to work overtime to compensate for the diminished stimulation. 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. This overworks the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to stop mental 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 increased cognitive function.
We would see fewer cases of cognitive decline and mental health problems if more people would just wear their hearing aids. Between 15% and 30% of people who need 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. If hearing aids can lower 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 protect your memory at the same time? Contact us today and schedule a consultation to find out if hearing aids are right for you and start moving toward better mental health.