Hearing loss is generally accepted as just a normal part of the aging process: 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 grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps we begin to forget things?
Loss of memory is also frequently regarded as a standard part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the younger population. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And could it be possible to safeguard your mental health and treat hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and mental decline
Most people don’t connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. Nevertheless, the connection is very clear if you look in the right places: studies reveal that there is a substantial risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize is affected by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
Why is cognitive decline affected by hearing loss?
While there is no concrete finding or definitive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is some connection and numerous clues that experts are looking at. They think two main scenarios are responsible: the inability to interact socially and your brain working overtime.
Studies have demonstrated that depression and anxiety are often the result of loneliness. And people aren’t as likely to socialize with other people when they have hearing loss. Many individuals with hearing loss find it’s too hard to participate in conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like the movie theater. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
Studies have also revealed that when somebody has hearing impairment, the brain has to work overtime to compensate for the reduced stimulation. The region of the brain that processes sounds, such as voices in a conversation, needs more help from other parts of the brain – namely, the part of the brain that stores memories. Mental decline will then progress faster than normal as the overworked brain strains to keep up.
Using hearing aids to prevent mental 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 decreased risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
We would see fewer instances 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 people cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. 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 improve exponentially.
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 reaching out to us for an appointment.