As we age we begin to have difficulty hearing clearly and we usually just accept it as a normal part of growing older. 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 might even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Memory loss is also normally considered a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more common in the senior citizen population than in the younger population at large. But what if the two were in some way connected? And is it possible to protect your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Cognitive decline and dementia are not usually associated with hearing loss. But if you look in the appropriate places, you will find a clear link: studies show that there is a significant risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
People who cope with hearing loss also often deal with mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Your ability to socialize is affected by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why does hearing loss impact cognitive decline?
While there isn’t any solid finding or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is some association and numerous clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main situations that they think result in issues: the inability to interact socially and your brain working overtime.
Many studies show that isolation leads to depression and anxiety. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to interact socially with others. 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.
Additionally, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears don’t hear as well as they should. Eventually, the part of the brain in charge of 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 progress faster than normal as the overworked brain struggles to keep up.
Using hearing aids to stop mental decline
Hearing aids are our first weapon against mental decline, mental health issues, and dementia. When people use hearing aids to address hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we might see less cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million people who cope with some kind of dementia. If hearing aids can decrease 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 safeguard your memory at the same time? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for a consultation.