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September is World Alzheimer’s Month! A global initiative to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, this month is also about taking action to reduce your risk. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that nearly 6 million people are currently living with in the U.S. This is estimated to rapidly increase by more than double by 2050 according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most severe form of dementia which refers to a range of diseases that cause cognitive decline. Reducing one’s ability to remember, solve problems, concentrate, make decisions etc., dementia can prevent people from functioning independently. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of all types of dementia that people experience, making it the most common.
There are no cures for Alzheimer’s disease, so there is significant emphasis on identifying ways to prevent or delay its progression. One of the ways that people can reduce their risk is by assessing their hearing health. So, a great way to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month by scheduling an appointment for a hearing test!
Understanding Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a pervasive health condition, impacting over 40 million people in the U.S. alone. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
- 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss
- 25% of adults 65-74 have hearing loss
- 50% of adults 75 and over have disabling hearing loss
This makes hearing loss the third most common chronic medical conditions that older adults experience. There are several factors that can cause hearing impairment including genetic history, aging, existing medical conditions, and exposure to loud noise. Hearing loss typically happens gradually so it can remain unnoticed for quite some time. This reduced ability to hear and process sound has a range of symptoms including:
- Tinnitus which is a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices
- Sound is muffled making it difficult to follow a conversation
- Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak loudly and/or slowly
- Difficulty hearing especially in environments with background noise
- Reading mouths to identify words
- Experiencing confusion and/or exhaustion during/after conversations
These symptoms can be mild to severe and can really affect how you manage personal and professional responsibilities. Untreated hearing loss can worsen these symptoms and your health by contributing to cognitive decline.
Link Between Alzheimer’s & Hearing Loss
There is a significant correlation between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. Extensive research shows that hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline. This includes a major study published in 2019 which found that cognitive decline was:
- 30% higher among people with mild hearing loss
- 42% higher among people with moderate hearing loss
- 54% higher among people with severe hearing loss
These groundbreaking findings also highlight that the more severe the hearing loss, the likelier cognitive decline is. Though it remains unclear how hearing loss causes cognitive decline, researchers suggest a few ways that it could:
- The parts of the brain responsible for how we hear are being underused and this inactivity of brain cells and nerve pathways can affect overall cognitive function
- Cognitive overload caused by the extra energy spent in trying to hear, overworks the brain and impact cognitive capacity
- Social withdrawal which is a common symptom of hearing loss, results in reduced stimulation and energy for the brain and body
What is certain is that hearing loss impacts cognitive functions and that by treating hearing loss, you can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking a Hearing Test
The first step is to schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Conducted by a member of our team, hearing tests are painless and noninvasive! You can expect to:
- Provide relevant information about your medical and hearing health history
- Take the test which consists of wearing headphones and being guided through sounds (played at different frequencies) as you indicate what you can hear
- Receive your results which will show you your hearing ability in both ears and any impairment as well as the degree
There are effective ways that hearing loss is treated which can drastically improve your communication, relationships, and overall health! Contact us today to learn more.