As we get older we begin to have difficulty hearing clearly and we typically just accept it as a normal part of growing older. Perhaps we begin to turn the volume up on the TV or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we start forgetting things?
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 what if the two were in some way related? And is it possible to maintain your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Mental decline and dementia are not commonly associated with hearing loss. But if you look in the appropriate places, you will see a clear link: studies show that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
Mental health problems including anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all influence our ability to socialize.
Why does hearing loss impact cognitive decline?
While there is no concrete finding or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is some association and several clues that experts are looking at. They have identified two main scenarios that they believe result in issues: your brain working extra hard to hear and social isolation.
Studies have shown that depression and anxiety are frequently the result of loneliness. And when people have hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Many individuals find it hard to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. Mental health issues can be the outcome of this path of solitude.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the brain frequently has to work harder to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. Ultimately, 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. Mental decline will then progress faster than normal as the overworked brain strains to keep up.
How to fight cognitive decline with hearing aids
The first line of defense against mental health issues and mental decline is hearing aids. When patients use hearing aids to deal with hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
We would see fewer cases of cognitive decline and mental health issues if more individuals would just use 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. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly 50 million people who suffer from some form of dementia. If hearing aids can reduce 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 improve your hearing and maintain your memory at the same time? Get in touch with us today and make an appointment for a consultation to learn whether hearing aids are right for you and start moving toward better mental health.