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We all know that hearing loss affects one’s ability to hear the world around you and maintain rich and healthy conversations. However, did you know that hearing loss also affects cognitive function and can even lead to Alzheimer’s disease?

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia – a neurogenerative disease which is classified as affecting two or more cognitive functions. This could be memory, thinking, ability to follow a list of tasks and social behavior. Alzheimer’s makes up 60-80% of cases of dementia and affects 6.5 million people of all ages in the US.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s’ disease is not only difficult for those affected, but for the loved ones who must figure out how to provide 24-hour care seven days a week. It’s a progressive disease—starting subtly and gradually impeding a person’s ability to finish everyday tasks as basic and feeding oneself or brushing teeth. 

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that, “symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.” 

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:

  • memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • challenges in planning or solving problems
  • difficulty completing familiar tasks at home or at work
  • confusion with time or place
  • trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • new problems with words in speaking or writing
  • misplacing things/losing the ability to retrace
  • decreased/poor judgment
  • withdrawal from work or social activities

Factors Causing Alzheimer’s Disease

No one knows exactly what causes Alzheimer’s. While some degree of cognitive decline is normal with aging, Alzheimer’s is not a common part of aging. There are several factors which increase your risk. While some of these can’t be modified such age and family history certain factors such as diet, activity level and social life all play a major part in the likeliness of avoiding or suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. One factor which is believed to greatly factor into the likeness of Alzheimer’s is hearing loss.

Studies on Hearing Loss and Cognitive Abilities

On the forefront of exploration regarding hearing loss’s effect on cognitive function and dementia is Dr. Frank Lin from Johns Hopkins University. In a study published in 2011, it Dr Lin and associates reported that seniors “with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.” Dr. Lin suggests that “a common pathology may underlie both [hearing loss and dementia] or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia.”

In a more recent study, combined four studies previously compiled from England, Taiwan, Germany, and the Lancet Commission.

Utilizing data from the English Longitudinal Study on Aging, participants who were all aged 50 and older with hearing loss were “more likely to have a dementia diagnosis than those with normal hearing.” The study identified “the hazard of developing dementia was 1.4 times higher in individuals who reported moderate hearing and 1.6 times higher in those who reported poor hearing. “the takeaway from this large and comprehensive study is that the use of hearing aids could “help delay the onset of dementia or that hearing loss itself could serve as a risk indicator of cognitive decline.”

The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

When people struggle to hear it affects the brain ultimately leaving blanks which the brain struggles to fill. This makes social situations more exhausting than they may previously had been. The brain works overtime, and this may contribute to early cognitive decline.

In addition, when the brain stops receiving certain sound information due to hearing loss, it can lead to the death of brain cells which lie dormant and unused for years. Overtime, this can lead to brain shrinkage- a major risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease.

Schedule a Hearing Exam

If you are concerned about hearing loss, then it’s important for you to schedule a hearing exam with us today. We can help you find the best solution for you and your and your lifestyle so you can hear clearly and enjoy the life you love. Contact us today!

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