Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that affects a growing and aging population in our nation and an estimated 50 million worldwide. In recent years, Alzheimer’s disease has become an increasing concern due to its devastating effect on the ones we know and love. September marks a worldwide campaign to further inform and educate the public on the condition and empower those of us that have been directly and indirectly affected. For those of us in the hearing industry, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is of utmost importance.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that afflicts the brain, and it is insidious and degenerative in nature. Its specific causes remain largely unknown, but what we do know is that there is a direct correlation between our hearing health and dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease does have some broad similarities in the way it manifests symptoms and affects mainly our elderly. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers some of the characteristics that are common to sufferers of Alzheimer’s such as: poor decision making, repetition of questions, difficulty with everyday tasks and not recognizing familiar locations.
Reported by The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care in 2017, factors that increased the risk of dementia were:
- Depression – post middle age
- Low educational level (only till middle school or less)
- Obesity at middle age
- Hypertension at middle age
- Lack of physical fitness
- Hearing loss
Hearing Loss and Dementia
It has been widely recognized, researched, and confirmed that there is a link between dementia and hearing loss, although the specific cause remains largely unknown.
It has been suggested that fighting hearing loss would help with the overwhelmingly uphill battle with dementia and its emotional and financial cost to society.
Hearing loss leaves many vulnerable to isolation as it permeates every interaction leaving sufferers exhausted and currently, affecting over 50 percent of the American population over the age of 70.
It has been noted that many people that suffer from hearing decline do not follow up with treatment and the possible use of hearing aids for an average of 7 years after having been diagnosed. Living with an unchecked hearing impairment has many negative consequences. One of them is the appearance of “cognitive overload”. In actuality, it is the diversion of energy to compensate for the decline of hearing which results in other cognitive functions being compromised.
Hearing loss interferes and leads to the degradation of important pathways that our brain has developed over a lifetime. We rely on neural networks established by the brain to recognize and translate sound. Our brain matter decreases in functionality the less we use it.
Hearing Loss and Isolation
Our aging population is especially susceptible to withdrawal from social and familial activities when suffering from hearing loss. Exhaustion from continually exerting oneself often results in people cutting back on activities that require communicative abilities leaving them prone to depression.
Staying Healthy with Aging
To mitigate the effects of dementia, one of the five most important things we can do is to stay constantly engaged and social as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In order to stay actively engaged with people close to us, we need to be proactive in our hearing health.
In a study that followed nearly 2,000 participants for a period of 6 years, Dr. Lin and his colleagues, of John Hopkins University, recorded and compared the levels of the cognitive abilities of those with hearing loss and those without. Results from the 2013 study showed that conversational ability was greatly diminished over a period of time for the hearing impaired, as opposed to those that had normal hearing health.
His findings showed that hearing loss can be a major contributor to cognitive decline and that the hearing impaired need to address their condition for their overall health and well-being.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
Making an appointment to see a hearing health professional would be a good first step. A comprehensive assessment and treatment plan to address your specific hearing needs is the goal. It is unfortunate according to the CDC statistics: “Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.”
For World Alzheimer’s Month, Empower Yourself & Your Loved Ones
At Atlanta Hearing Doctor, we encourage you to give us a call if there any doubts regarding your hearing health. We understand the complexities involved and offer guidance and professionalism that allows people to incorporate a healthier hearing experience into their lives again. For the benefit of your health and the strengthening of your relationships with those close to you, we look forward to your first visit!