Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just a normal part of getting older: as we age, we start to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we start turning the volume up on the TV or keep asking our grandkids to speak up when they’re talking to us, or maybe we begin to forget things?
Loss of memory is also normally considered a natural part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more common 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, even better, 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 associated with hearing loss. Nevertheless, the link is quite clear if you look in the right places: if you have hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have shown there’s a significant risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
Individuals who have hearing loss also often deal with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health problems, and cognitive decline all influence our ability to socialize.
Why does hearing loss affect cognitive decline?
There is a link between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no solid proof that there’s a direct cause and effect relationship, experts are looking at some compelling clues. They have identified two main situations that they think lead to problems: your brain working extra hard to hear and social solitude.
Countless studies show that isolation results in depression and anxiety. And when people have hearing loss, they’re less likely to interact socially with others. Many people 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 outcome of this path of isolation.
Studies have also revealed that when someone has hearing loss, the brain has to work extra hard to compensate for the reduced stimulation. The part of the brain that’s responsible for understanding 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 overtaxes the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to prevent cognitive decline
The first line of defense against mental health issues and cognitive decline is hearing aids. When people use hearing aids to deal with hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we might see less cases of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of individuals who need hearing aids actually use them, which accounts for between 4.5 million and 9 million people. Almost 50 million people cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. For many individuals 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 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 to get on the path to better mental health.