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November and its pumpkin spices, gorgeous colored leaves and holiday spirit are finally upon us. As we begin to cuddle up to our fires and make plans with our friends and family this holiday season, it’s important to take some time to also honor and acknowledge Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. In 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan named November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Since that time, the prevalence of the disease has grown rapidly, and the trend keeps continuing up. Learn more about the risk for Alzheimer’s, as well as what you can do to help mitigate its negative effects, or spread awareness and understanding.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Dementia is an overarching term used to describe a set of cognitive symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. Most often, these symptoms include memory loss and decreased thinking and problem-solving skills. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia thought to be caused by amyloid plaques and tangles. These plaques and tangles are clusters of excess proteins that make it difficult for brain cells to communicate with each other. Of all type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is certainly the most common – accounting for about 60-80% of cases of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss
Multiple studies throughout the world have found an extremely strong correlation between hearing loss and an increased risk of developing dementia. One of the most famous was completed in 2011 by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The study followed over 600 participants for 12-18 years and found that those with mild hearing loss were two-times as likely and those with severe hearing loss were five-times as likely to have developed dementia over the course of the study than peers with normal hearing. These findings remained scientifically significant after adjusting for other factors such as socioeconomic status and overall health.
There are two main schools of thought surrounding the reason hearing loss is a risk-factor for developing dementia. The first one points to the fact that each of our brains only have a limited amount of resources and energy. With hearing loss, our brains extend an excess amount of energy into hearing and understanding. This means that less energy and brainpower are being used for other basic functions such as memory and problem solving. The second school of thought is regarding social isolation. Oftentimes, people with hearing loss begin to unconsciously isolate themselves from social situations or other public outings that have become frustrating or stressful – thus causing social isolation. Unfortunately, social isolation has long been a known risk factor for developing dementia.
The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss this Holiday Season
While typically joyous, the holidays can be a difficult or lonely time of the year for those who have begun to socially isolate themselves due to hearing loss. Fortunately, treating hearing loss with hearing aids has been scientifically proven to improve quality of life in many areas, including improved relationships, increased social activity, and even slowing cognitive decline that could lead to dementia. If you or someone you love may be experiencing some of the early signs of hearing loss, it is important to reach out to us to schedule a hearing assessment today. What better time than the holidays to give yourself as well as those you love the gift of hearing, communicating, and bonding?
Get Involved in Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
The most important way we can bring awareness to Alzheimer’s disease is to know and understand the signs and symptoms, and encourage our loved ones see a doctor if we notice them. Early intervention is currently the most effective treatment option available to help prolong quality of life. It is also possible to join in on “Memory Walks to End Alzheimer’s” that happen around the country in the months leading up to November. Unfortunately, most of the walks occurring in the greater Atlanta area have already passed, however, you may want to remind yourself to check back and participate next year. Thirdly, donations are always a good way to contribute to ongoing research efforts to help find a cure (Click here to donate).
To ensure your best hearing health, contact us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor. We provide comprehensive hearing services, from testing to hearing aid fittings and more.