Know Alzheimer’s Disease: Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer’s Month 

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Know Alzheimer’s Disease: Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer’s Month 

Peter Lucier, HIS

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, a great month to prioritize your hearing and brain health! You can participate in this global campaign by scheduling an appointment for a hearing test. Treating hearing loss reduces the risk of developing cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s. 

World’s Alzheimer’s Month

Launched in 2012, with September 21st marking World Alzheimer’s Day, this international initiative focuses on raising awareness about dementia – a group of medical conditions that deteriorate cognitive functions. 50 million people worldwide live with dementia, with  Alzheimer’s being the most common form of dementia –  accounting for up to 90% of all dementia that is experienced today. A neurological condition, Alzheimer’s typically begins with subtle memory loss. This can progressively reduce cognitive capacities related to memory, thinking, decision making, and learning – leading to an inability to remember loved ones, engage in conversations, complete basic tasks, and make decisions. It may become difficult for people to navigate and manage daily life independently, requiring regular assistance and care. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6.2 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s. This is expected to rapidly increase, reaching 12.7 million by 2050. Because exact causes of Alzheimer’s are unknown – and it likely caused by a variety of factors – there is significant emphasis placed on identifying and mitigating risk factors. Extensive research has established hearing loss as a condition that increases the risk of cognitive decline. So seeking treatment and intervening as early as possible can delay or prevent the development of Alzheimer’s.

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing loss impacts nearly 48 million people and is the third most common condition that adults live with. Several factors can cause hearing loss including: environmental exposure to loud noise, aging (known as presbycusis), existing medical conditions, head/neck injuries, and genetic history. The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss which occurs when the hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. These hair cells are responsible for translating soundwaves into electrical signals that then travel to the brain where they are further processed and assigned meaning to; enabling us to understand what we hear. 

Hearing loss reduces this capacity to perceive and process sound which produces numerous symptoms that strain communication. This has multifaceted effects on all aspects of life impacting relationships, social engagement, job performance, and daily wellness. Additionally, untreated hearing loss affects brain health.  Research shows that hearing loss can reorganize parts of the brain responsible for processing sound and these changes of neural networks reduce the activity. This reduces function in these specific areas which leads to declining cognitive function. Additionally, social withdrawal is a major outcome of untreated hearing loss. Retreating from spending time with others and participating in social activities means less engagement and stimulation for the brain which also impact cognitive function. 

Hearing Aids Can Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s

Treating hearing loss starts with the simple step of taking a hearing test. Involving a noninvasive process, hearing tests measure hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you are experiencing. Your hearing healthcare provider is then able to make recommendations to meet your specific hearing needs. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These are small electronic devices that absorb, amplify, and process sound; providing ample hearing support. Hearing aids maximize hearing across all environments, allowing people to hear and communicate with greater ease and clarity. This offers countless life-changing benefits including strengthening communication, improving relationships, and enriching social life. 

Additionally, research has shown that hearing aids improve brain health, reducing the risk of developing conditions like Alzheimers. This includes the following study:

  • ​​2020 Study Published in Science Daily: examining how hearing aids impact the brain, researchers assessed the hearing and cognitive functions of nearly 100 people (ages 62 and older) before and after hearing aid use. Key findings include: 
  • “97% of participants showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function (mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks)

Treating hearing loss can transform your life. World Alzheimer’s Month is a great opportunity to commit to your hearing health by taking the first step of scheduling an appointment to see us! Contact us today. 

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