As we age we start to have difficulty hearing clearly and we typically just accept it as a normal part of growing older. Maybe we need to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves when they talk. Maybe the volume on our TV keeps getting louder. We may even discover that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also normally regarded as a normal part of aging as dementia and Alzheimer’s are a lot more prevalent in the senior citizen population than in the younger population at large. But what if the two were somehow related? And is it possible to protect your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and mental decline
Mental decline and dementia aren’t commonly connected to hearing loss. However, the link is quite 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 disorders if you also suffer from hearing loss – even at relatively low levels of hearing impairment.
People who have hearing loss also often have mental health problems including depression and anxiety. 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?
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 association, experts are investigating some persuasive clues. They think two main situations are responsible: your brain working harder to hear and social isolation.
Many studies show that loneliness brings about anxiety and depression. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to interact socially with others. Many individuals find it hard to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. These actions lead to isolation, which can result in mental health issues.
Studies have also revealed that when someone has hearing loss, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the reduced stimulation. Ultimately, the part of the brain responsible for other tasks, like remembering, has to use some of its resources to help the region of the brain responsible for hearing. This overtaxes the brain and causes mental decline to set in a lot faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to stop cognitive decline
The first line of defense against mental health problems and mental decline is hearing aids. When patients use hearing aids to manage hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a decreased risk of dementia and had improved cognitive function.
If more people used their hearing aids, we may see less instances 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. The World Health Organization estimates that there are nearly 50 million people who deal with some kind of dementia. 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 improve your hearing and maintain your memory at the same time? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by reaching out to us for an appointment.