Can Brain Atrophy be Caused by Hearing Loss?

Man having trouble remembering things because of brain strain related to hearing loss.

Hearing loss is generally accepted as just another part of getting older: as we grow older, we begin to hear things a little less intelligibly. Maybe we need to keep asking the grandkids to speak up when they talk, or we have to turn the volume up on the TV, or maybe…we begin to…what was I going to say…oh yes. Perhaps we start forgetting things.

The general population has a far lower rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s than the older population. That’s the reason why loss of memory is regarded as a normal part of aging. But what if the two were somehow connected? And what if you could deal with your hearing loss while caring for your mental health and preserving your memories?

Hearing Loss And Mental Decline

With nearly 30 million individuals in the United States suffering from hearing loss, the majority of them do not connect hearing loss with mental decline and dementia. However, the connection is quite clear if you look in the right places: if you have hearing loss, there is serious risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to many studies – even at fairly low levels of hearing impairment.

Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are also pretty prevalent in people who suffer from hearing loss. Your ability to socialize can be seriously effected by hearing loss, cognitive decline, and other mental health problems and that’s the real key here.

Why is Cognitive Decline Related to Hearing Loss?

While there are no solid findings or definitive evidence that hearing loss causes cognitive decline and mental health issues, there is definitely some link and several clues that experts are looking into. There are two primary scenarios they have pinpointed that they believe contribute to problems: inability to socialize and your brain working overtime.

research has shown that loneliness brings about depression and anxiety. And when people are dealing with hearing loss, they’re not as likely to socialize with others. Many people find it’s too hard to carry on conversations or can’t hear well enough to enjoy activities like going to the movies. These situations lead to a path of solitude, which can result in mental health problems.

researchers have also discovered that the brain frequently has to work overtime to make up for the the ears not hearing as well as they should. The region of the brain that’s in control of comprehending sounds, such as 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 cognitive decline to set in much faster than if the brain was processing sounds correctly.

How to Stop Cognitive Decline by Wearing Hearing Aids

Hearing aids improve our hearing permitting the brain to use it’s resources in a normal way which is our best defense for dealing with cognitive decline and dementia. Research has shown that patients increased their cognitive functions and were at a reduced risk for developing dementia when they handled their hearing loss using hearing aids.

Actually, if more people wore their hearing aids, we might see reduced cases of mental health concerns and cognitive decline. Between 15% and 30% of people who require hearing aids actually use them, which makes up between 4.5 million and 9 million people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are almost 50 million individuals who suffer from some kind of dementia. The quality of life will be drastically enhanced for people and families if hearing aids can lessen that number by even a couple million people.

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