Hearing loss is generally accepted as simply another part of the aging process: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Maybe we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Perhaps the volume on our TV keeps getting louder. We may even notice that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also typically regarded as a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are much more prevalent in the senior citizen population than in the younger population at large. But is it possible that there’s a link between the two? And, even better, what if there was a way to manage hearing loss and also preserve your memories and mental health?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia aren’t usually associated with hearing loss. But if you look in the appropriate places, you will see a clear connection: studies reveal that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders 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 have hearing loss. The key point here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all influence our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
There is a connection between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no solid proof that there’s a direct cause and effect association, experts are exploring some persuasive clues. They think two main scenarios are responsible: the inability to interact socially and your brain working overtime.
Studies have revealed that depression and anxiety are frequently the result of isolation. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re not as likely to interact socially with others. Many people find it difficult to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. Mental health issues can be the result of this path of isolation.
In addition, researchers have found 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. The region of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, needs more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that stores memories. Mental decline will then develop faster than normal as the overworked brain strains to keep up.
Using hearing aids to stop mental decline
The first line of defense against mental health problems and mental decline is hearing aids. Studies show that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to fight their hearing loss.
We would see fewer instances of cognitive decline and mental health issues if more individuals would just wear their hearing aids. Of all the people who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually use them, that’s between 5 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 decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to start hearing better – and remembering things without any issue? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for an appointment.