Hearing loss is commonly accepted as just another part of the aging process: as we get older, we begin to hear things a little less clearly. Perhaps we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Perhaps the volume on our TV keeps going up. We may even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also commonly regarded as a standard part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. But is it possible that there’s a connection between the two? And is it possible to safeguard your mental health and treat hearing loss at the same time?
The link between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Most people do not associate hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right places: if you’re experiencing hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have revealed there’s a substantial risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
People who cope with hearing loss also frequently have mental health issues including anxiety and depression. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all impact our ability to socialize.
Why is cognitive decline impacted by hearing loss?
While there is no solid finding or conclusive proof that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health problems, there is some connection and numerous clues that experts are looking at. They think two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working harder to hear and social separation.
Countless studies show that isolation leads to depression and anxiety. And people aren’t as likely to socialize with other people when they cope with hearing loss. Many people 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. Mental health issues can be the result of this path of solitude.
Studies have also shown that when someone has hearing loss, the brain has to work overtime to compensate for the reduced stimulation. The region of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, such as voices in a conversation, needs more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that stores memories. This overworks the brain and causes mental decline to set in much faster than if the brain was able to process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to prevent mental decline
Hearing aids are our first line of defense against cognitive decline, mental health problems, and dementia. When people use hearing aids to manage hearing loss, studies have revealed that they were at a lower risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we might see less instances of mental health issues and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require 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. If hearing aids can lower 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 problems? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for an appointment.