As we age we start to have trouble hearing clearly and we normally just accept it as a normal part of aging. Maybe we start turning up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we begin forgetting things?
Loss of memory is also frequently regarded as a standard part of aging because the senior population is more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the younger population. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And, better yet, what if there was a way to treat hearing loss and also maintain your memories and mental health?
The link between mental decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia aren’t commonly connected to hearing loss. However, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: if you’re experiencing hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have shown there’s a considerable risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in individuals who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize is impacted by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why does hearing loss affect cognitive decline?
While there is no solid finding or definitive 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 scenarios that they believe result in problems: your brain working extra hard to hear and social isolation.
Countless studies show that loneliness results in anxiety and depression. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many individuals with hearing loss find it’s too hard 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.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain often has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. The region of the brain that processes sounds, such as voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. Cognitive decline will then progress faster than normal as the overworked brain struggles to keep up.
Using hearing aids to prevent cognitive decline
The weapon against mental health issues 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 issues 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. Nearly 50 million individuals cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. For many people and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can decrease that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to improve your hearing and protect 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.