Oh, the beauty of November! The crisp air, fall leaves, pumpkin spices and Thanksgiving. Along with all the charm that November brings, it is also National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – an important time to bring awareness to and end the stigma of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a very common cognitive disorder that is developed by someone every 65 seconds in the United States (https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures). It is imperative that we all work together to help raise awareness and understanding of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.
About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for about 60-80% of dementia cases. Dementia is an overarching term used to describe a loss of cognitive abilities and/or memory that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, meaning that it slowly becomes worse over time.
In the beginning stages, the most common symptom is an inability to remember recently learned information. In this stage, the disease can be very difficult to detect, especially since some slowed cognitive activity or occasional forgetfulness are sometimes typical aspects of aging. In the late stages of the disease, a person with Alzheimer’s will no longer be able to hold conversations or care for his or her daily needs.
Currently, there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, treatment options exist that help improve the quality of life for those with the disease and help to slow the worsening of symptoms. Across the globe, researchers are working to better understand Alzheimer’s in an attempt to develop a cure and more effective treatment options.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss
Recently, scientific research outlining the relationship between hearing loss and dementia has exploded. Findings from around the world have all made similar conclusions – there seems to be a correlation between those with hearing loss and an increased risk for developing dementia.
Two of the first and most cited studies on the correlation were completed by Frank Lin, PhD and his colleagues out of Johns Hopkins University. The first of these studies was done in 2011. This study followed 639 participants who were mentally sharp at the beginning of the study for a period of 12-18 years. The study periodically checked participant’s mental abilities. The study concluded that the worse a person’s hearing loss was at the beginning of the study, the higher their risk for developing symptoms of dementia. The degree of hearing loss also played a major role. Those with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to have developed dementia than their peers without hearing loss and those with severe or profound hearing loss were five times as likely to have developed the disorder (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_and_dementia_linked_in_study).
The second study was completed in 2013 by the same team as a follow-up to the 2011 findings. Rather than the increased risk for developing dementia in general, this study looked more closely at the rate of decline for participants with and without hearing loss. The study followed almost 2,000 older adults for a number of years and tested their cognition periodically. The research concluded that those with hearing loss experienced a rate of cognitive decline that was 30-40% accelerated rate of cognitive decline. (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1558452?buffer_share=f2d51&utm_source=buffer).
Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Aids
Luckily, research has uncovered that hearing aids may be an effective method of staving off dementia symptoms for those with hearing loss. A study out of the UK that was published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society just this year has found exciting results. The study concluded that participants who used hearing aids scored higher on memory assessments than those who did not use hearing aids and over the duration of the study, hearing aid users experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline than their peers who did not use hearing aids. These results were scientifically significant even after being adjusted for multiple cofactors such as overall health, socioeconomic status and age at the start and finish of the study.
After completing their research, the authors concluded that “providing hearing aids or other rehabilitative services for hearing impairment much earlier in the course of hearing impairment may stem the worldwide rise of dementia” (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jgs.15363).
Active Hearing and Audiology
Among the many plans you make this November, consider scheduling a hearing test with us at Active Hearing and Audiology! Our team provides comprehensive hearing health services to ensure that you are hearing at your best.