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. Maybe we begin to turn up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we start forgetting things?
Loss of memory is also often regarded as a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are far more prevalent 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 treat hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and cognitive decline
Mental decline and dementia are not commonly associated with hearing loss. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the appropriate places: if you have hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have revealed there’s a substantial risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
Mental health issues including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all impact our ability to socialize.
Why does hearing loss impact cognitive decline?
There is a link between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no solid proof that there’s a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are investigating some compelling clues. They believe two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working harder to hear and social solitude.
Studies have revealed that anxiety and depression are frequently the result of loneliness. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they have hearing loss. Many individuals find it difficult to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can bring about mental health issues.
Studies have also revealed that when someone has hearing impairment, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the reduced stimulation. Ultimately, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like remembering, has to use some of its resources to help the region of the brain responsible for hearing. Cognitive decline will then develop faster than normal as the overworked brain strains 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 reduced risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
We would see fewer cases of cognitive decline and mental health problems if more individuals 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 individuals cope with dementia as reported by the World Health Organization estimates. For many people and families, the quality of life will be enhanced if hearing aids can reduce that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to begin 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.