Living with hearing loss can be quite a challenging experience, especially if it’s left undiagnosed or unmanaged. If you allow your hearing to deteriorate further, it could begin to affect other areas of your health, including your memory and mental health.
It is generally accepted that some hearing loss is a part of the ageing process, but along with untreated hearing loss can come other complications such as dementia, memory loss and similar cognitive problems.
The link between losing one’s hearing and becoming isolated from conversations is clear. As it becomes harder to hear, it becomes harder to communicate, and when this happens some people end up retreating from conversation. This is where the dangers for mental health can lie.
A 2013 study of nearly 2,000 older adults at an average age of 77, tracked their overall cognitive abilities such as concentration, memory and planning skills. After six years, those who began the study with hearing loss severe enough to interfere with conversation were 24 percent more likely than those with normal hearing to see a decline in their cognitive abilities. The researchers concluded that hearing loss essentially seemed to speed up age-related cognitive decline.
Another study which concluded in 2011, and had been monitoring a group of 639 mentally sharp people for between 12 and 18 years, found that the worse the initial hearing loss was, the more likely that person was to have developed dementia during the years of study. Compared to people of normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk of developing cognitive issues.
The research into this area is still continuing but factors such as decreased concentration due to social isolation and underuse of brain cells responsible for interpreting sounds that can lead to shrinkage of those cells, are just a few of the reasons why hearing loss can lead to memory loss.
The sooner you get fitted for a hearing device, the better your chances of adjusting to this new way of hearing.