As we get older we begin to have difficulty hearing clearly and we normally 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 might even notice that we’re becoming forgetful.
Loss of memory is also often viewed as a normal part of aging because the senior population is more prone to Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. But what if the two were somehow related? And could it be possible to safeguard your mental health and manage hearing loss at the same time?
Hearing loss and mental decline
Most individuals don’t associate hearing loss with cognitive decline and dementia. Nevertheless, the connection is very clear if you look in the appropriate places: studies show that there is a considerable risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-like conditions if you also have hearing loss – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.
People who cope with hearing loss also frequently have mental health issues including depression and anxiety. The key here is that hearing loss, mental health issues, and cognitive decline all impact our ability to socialize.
Why does hearing loss impact cognitive decline?
There is a connection between hearing loss and mental decline, and though there’s no concrete proof that there is a direct cause and effect association, experts are looking at some compelling clues. They think two main scenarios are responsible: your brain working extra hard to hear and social separation.
Countless studies show that isolation leads to depression and anxiety. And when people have hearing loss, they’re less likely to interact socially with other people. 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. These actions lead down a path of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues.
Additionally, researchers have found that the brain often has to work overtime to make up for the fact that the ears can’t hear clearly. 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 – namely, the part of the brain that keeps our memories intact. 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 cognitive decline
Hearing aids are our first weapon against mental decline, mental health problems, and dementia. When people use hearing aids to deal with hearing loss, studies have shown that they were at a reduced risk of dementia and had increased cognitive function.
If more people wore their hearing aids, we may see less cases of mental health problems 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 as reported by 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 improve your hearing and protect your memory at the same time? Get on the path to better hearing and improved mental health by calling us for a consultation.
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