Hearing loss is usually accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we get older, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we begin to turn up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps we begin to forget things?
Loss of memory is also typically considered a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more widespread in the senior citizen population than in the general population at large. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And is it possible to protect your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and mental decline
Most individuals don’t connect hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. Nevertheless, the link is very clear if you look in the right places: studies reveal that there is a significant 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 problems like 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 impact cognitive decline?
There is a link between hearing loss and cognitive decline, and though there’s no solid proof that there is a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are investigating some persuasive clues. They have identified two main scenarios that they believe result in problems: your brain working harder to hear and social solitude.
Countless studies show that solitude leads to depression and anxiety. And people are not as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many individuals find it difficult to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. These actions lead to isolation, which can bring about mental health problems.
Studies have also revealed that when somebody has hearing loss, the brain has to work extra hard to make up 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 keeps our memories intact. This overworks the brain and causes mental decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
How to prevent mental decline with hearing aids
The weapon against mental health issues and mental decline is hearing aids. Research has shown that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to combat their hearing loss.
If more people used their hearing aids, we may see fewer cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. Of all the people who require hearing aids, only between 15% and 30% actually wear them, that’s between 5 and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly 50 million people who cope with some form of dementia. For many individuals 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 begin hearing better – and remembering things without any trouble? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for an appointment.