As we get older we start to have difficulty hearing clearly and we normally just accept it as a normal part of the aging process. Perhaps we start turning up the volume on the TV or keep asking our grandchildren to speak up when they’re talking to us, or perhaps we start forgetting things?
Memory loss is also often considered a normal 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 link between the two? And is it possible to maintain your mental health and address hearing loss at the same time?
The link between cognitive decline and hearing loss
Most individuals don’t associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. But if you look in the appropriate places, you will see a clear link: if you’re experiencing hearing loss, even at low levels, studies have revealed there’s a considerable risk of developing dementia or cognitive decline.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are also fairly prevalent in people who have hearing loss. Your ability to socialize is affected by cognitive decline, mental health problems, and hearing loss which is the common thread.
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 association, experts are investigating some compelling clues. They have identified two main scenarios that they think result in issues: your brain working extra hard to hear and social separation.
Many studies show that isolation brings about depression and anxiety. And when people have hearing loss, they’re not as likely to interact socially with other people. Many people find it difficult to go out to the movies or dinner because they can’t hear very well. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can result in mental health problems.
Studies have also shown that when somebody has hearing impairment, the brain has to work overtime to make up for the reduced stimulation. The part of the brain that’s responsible for understanding sounds, like voices in a conversation, requires more help from other parts of the brain – specifically, the part of the brain that stores memories. This overworks the brain and causes cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain could process sounds normally.
Using hearing aids to prevent mental decline
The weapon against mental health problems and cognitive decline is hearing aids. Research has revealed that patients improved their cognitive functions and were at a lower 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 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 individuals cope with dementia according to the World Health Organization estimates. For many people and families, the quality of life will be improved if hearing aids can reduce that number by even a couple million people.
Are you ready to start 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.