September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and with it comes an abundance of incredible information about how the Alzheimer’s disease affects individuals, families, and communities. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, which is an umbrella term that is used to describe a wide range of cognitive impairments. Here, we’ll take a look at how hearing loss is linked with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is typically known because of the ways that it affects people’s memories. It is difficult for people suffering from Alzheimer’s to retain new information and to form new memories. There are many other effects as the disease progresses, however. One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s is a general disorientation: people becoming suddenly lost in familiar and unfamiliar spaces, not knowing where they may have just recently come from, and/or misplacing objects they may have recently held. Another sign of Alzheimer’s is confusion when completing otherwise familiar tasks, such as handling money or driving their care.
There are other signs of Alzheimer’s that can be especially distressing for friends and loved ones. As Alzheimer’s progresses, people suffering from the disease can experience sudden mood swings and changes in personality. They can appear indifferent to people they long held dear to them, or even become suspicious of loved ones and paranoid that people are attempting to harm them. People with advanced Alzheimer’s can display disturbing behavior, such as becoming uninhibited in public and undressing or making inappropriate remarks and advances. In other cases, people may get up in the middle of the night and leave the home, becoming lost.
A Link to Hearing Loss
Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disease, meaning that there is no cure and there is no way to repair the brain’s functioning. Researchers have however been exploring ways to slow down the progression of the disease, and treating hearing loss has been a bright spot in the larger aim of helping people suffering from Alzheimer’s. The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care found that more than one third of dementia cases worldwide might be prevented if lifestyle factors including treating hearing loss were to be addressed. Hearing loss typically begins to express itself as people reach middle age, after half a lifetime of being exposed to persistent and loud noises. While Alzheimer’s typically affects older adults, there is a significant number of people under the age of 65 who are experiencing early onset Alzheimer’s—that is, people who are of an age where hearing loss as well as cognitive decline can be at play. Beginning the work of addressing the risks of hearing loss is important at any age, but might be especially useful for people reaching middle age who also have a family history of dementia or other cognitive issues.
Treating Hearing Loss
Treating hearing loss is not a remedy for Alzheimer’s and is not a “sure bet” in terms of preventing Alzheimer’s. Setting on the path of healthier hearing can nonetheless be an important step in ensuring a longer, healthier life. Here are some steps that are essential to any hearing health plan:
- Consult a trained hearing health professional. A visit to your trusted audiologist is the first step in assessing and addressing your hearing health needs. Once you receive a safe and non-invasive hearing test, your hearing health professional will be more able to discuss with you the extent of any hearing damage and encourage you as you embark on the next steps of better hearing health.
- Find the right hearing assistance technologies. The perfect hearing aids are out there for you. Modern day technologies have allowed us to develop high-tech, high-quality, and low-cost hearing aids that will suit your every need. Using hearing aids is not only important for catching those sounds you may have lost, but takes pressure off of your brain to redirect resources away from other senses in order to compensate for hearing loss, making you more well-rounded.
- Practice healthy hearing habits day in and out. Every day we are exposed to loud noises, both within our homes, at work, and out in the world. Plugging your ears when sudden sounds occur, such as passing sirens, and keeping earplugs on-hand for when you will be in loud spaces such as concerts are simple things you can do every day to ensure that you are protecting the hearing you do have and warding against future loss.
Visit Us at Neighborhood Hearing Aid Center
If you are concerned about your hearing abilities, contact us at Neighborhood Hearing aid Center today. Our team provides comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings.