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Hearing loss can affect mental health

Many seniors suffer from hearing loss

Hearing loss impacts more than 60.7 million individuals over age 12 in the United States. About 75% of people aged 70 years or older have hearing loss, making it the 3rd most common health condition in seniors.1 Hearing loss has implications for mental wellness and acuity, but there are options for treatment that benefit more than just the ears.

Scientists have linked several neurological and mental health-related conditions to untreated hearing loss, including reduced mental acuity, dementia and depression. Research consistently demonstrates the effects that hearing impairment has on social, psychological and cognitive performance.2 That's why it's vital for individuals with hearing loss to seek treatment to enhance their overall wellness.

Alzheimer's disease linked to hearing loss

Recently, researchers from the University of Wisconsin demonstrated links between Alzheimer's disease and hearing loss, and suggested that hearing loss could be an early indicator of Alzheimer's disease.3 Individuals with mild hearing loss at the beginning of their study were more than four times more likely to have mild cognitive impairment after four years than those with normal hearing.4

Hearing wellness and mental acuity

Diminished hearing is also linked to a loss of mental acuity. Research from Brandeis University and the University of Pennsylvania states, "There is ample evidence linking hearing loss to changes in cognitive ability, particularly when listeners are faced with the task of understanding speech that is acoustically or linguistically challenging."5

Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University has authored numerous publications focusing on hearing loss. According to one study, even mild hearing loss doubled the risk for dementia. "Moderate loss tripled risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment were five times more likely to develop dementia."6

Even in young people, scientists have linked hearing loss to changes in the brain. In younger adults, the brain uses the auditory cortex to understand sound and language. After age 50, it begins to use the frontal cortex. However, MRIs of younger adults with mild hearing loss show premature use of the frontal cortex in deciphering language.7

Depression and hearing loss

Conversations become increasingly taxing when an individual struggles to hear, resulting in social isolation. Hearing impairment has been linked with increased levels of depression, especially in women and individuals between 18 and 69 years of age.8

Using hearing aids may alleviate symptoms of depression, according to the National Council on the Aging.9 People with untreated hearing loss reported:

  • Sadness and depression
  • Worry and anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Decreased social activity
  • Emotional turmoil
  • Insecurity

However, when seniors in the study used hearing aids, they noted important improvements to more than their hearing. They reported improved relationships with families; better self-esteem and mental health; and feelings of greater independence and security.10

Understanding hearing loss and treatment options

Simply put, the earlier one detects and addresses hearing loss, the better the possible outcome. According to the National Institutes of Health,11 treating hearing loss can improve overall well-being. It can help keep the brain engaged through stimulation and may allow for better communication, leading to improved mental health.

Therefore, it's important to understand the options for treating hearing loss. CareCredit© partners with HearingLife, which has clinics across the United States. Their professionals can determine if hearing aids could serve as an appropriate treatment option for you or a loved one. Learn more about hearing loss and treatment options at www.hearinglife.com/lp/hearing-health or contact HearingLife directly at (866) 997-7706.

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