Hearing loss is usually accepted as simply another part of the aging process: 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 forgetting things?
Loss of memory is also often viewed as a standard part of aging because the senior population is more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. But is it possible that there’s a link between the two? And is it possible to protect your mental health and treat hearing loss at the same time?
The connection between mental decline and hearing loss
Most people don’t connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. But if you look in the right places, you will find a clear link: if you have hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have shown there’s a substantial risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
People who have hearing loss also frequently deal with mental health issues such as 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 affected by hearing loss?
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 exploring some persuasive clues. They believe two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working extra hard to hear and social solitude.
Studies have revealed that anxiety and depression are frequently the result of isolation. And when people suffer from hearing loss, they’re less likely to socialize with other people. Many people who suffered from hearing loss find it’s too hard to participate in conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy things like going to the movies. Mental health issues can be the outcome of this path of solitude.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain frequently has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. The part of the brain that processes sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. This overtaxes 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 cognitive decline with hearing aids
The first line of defense against mental health issues and cognitive decline is hearing aids. Research has shown that people improved their cognitive functions and were at a decreased risk of developing dementia when they used hearing aids to deal with their hearing loss.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we might see fewer cases of mental health problems and cognitive decline. 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 almost 50 million people who cope with some form of dementia. For many people 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 begin hearing better – and remembering things without any problems? Contact us today and schedule a consultation to find out if hearing aids are right for you and to get on the path to better mental health.