Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of getting older: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we start turning the volume up on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we begin to forget things?
Loss of memory is also normally regarded as a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more prevalent in the senior citizen population than in the general population at large. But what if the two were in some way connected? And, even better, what if there was a way to treat hearing loss and also safeguard your memories and mental health?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia aren’t commonly associated with hearing loss. But if you look in the appropriate places, you will discover a clear link: if you’re experiencing hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have shown there’s a significant risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key point here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all affect our ability to socialize.
Why does hearing loss affect cognitive decline?
There is a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there’s a direct cause and effect association, experts are exploring some persuasive clues. They have identified two main scenarios that they believe lead to issues: your brain working harder to hear and social separation.
Many studies show that isolation results in depression and anxiety. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to interact socially with others. Many people who suffered from hearing loss find it’s too difficult to participate in conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. Ultimately, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like remembering, has to use some of its resources to help the part of the brain responsible for hearing. This overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to stop cognitive decline
The weapon against mental health issues and cognitive decline is hearing aids. When patients use hearing aids to manage hearing loss, studies have revealed that they were at a reduced risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we may see less instances of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Of all the individuals who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually use them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly 50 million people who deal with some kind 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 be exponentially improved.
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 reaching out to us for an appointment.