Are some of your family members showing signs of memory loss? It could be something that you should investigate further. As these degenerative diseases becomes more common, especially among the aging population of seniors in America, any sign of memory loss could be an early warning sign of dementia, and be a source of concern for your and those you love in your family. An estimated 1 in 3 older people lose their life through Alzheimer’s or another dementia, killing more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. In fact, every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease.
Signs of memory loss
One of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease is forgetting recently learned information. A person might also forget important dates or events or ask for the same information again and again. They might also have to rely on other people for things they used to be able to do on their own. Those with memory loss find it tough to focus on cognitive tasks or pick up where they left off on certain tasks. You might have to remind your family member what day it is and they might forget conversations they have had with you.
Seeing your loved ones go through these problems is very concerning for you. But it’s important to explore all avenues. Although it’s entirely possible that it is a sign of dementia, new evidence suggests that memory loss could also be linked to hearing loss.
How Memory and Hearing Loss are Linked
A study published in the Canadian Journal on Aging looked at the link between memory and hearing loss, and found that over 50% of those with memory loss also struggled to hear. It’s argued that those with poor memory may not have even heard the piece of information in the first place. After all, how can you remember what someone told you if you never even heard them?
Dr. Susan Vandermorris, a clinical neuropsychologist at Baycrest and lead author of the study, explains how these are linked. “We commonly see clients who are worried about Alzheimer’s disease because their partner complains that they don’t seem to pay attention,” explains Dr. Vandermorris. “They don’t seem to listen, or they don’t remember what is said to them. Sometimes addressing hearing loss may mitigate or fix what looks like a memory issue.” Could it be that fixing the hearing could improve memory in these situations?
Hearing Health is Brain Health
There is a strong connection between hearing health and brain health. Untreated hearing means your ears aren’t able to hear all the sounds around you, which means that certain parts of the brain are not being used. Other parts are working overtime, trying to fill in the gaps left by the ear cells, which lowers the amount of energy to register what has been said.
Conversations in noisy environment become a cacophony of random sounds, vowels, and consonants. The brain has to work hard to come up with a meaning for the sounds it has just heard, based on previous conversations, context and the body language of the person speaking. This leads to a cognitive load. It could be that the struggle to understand speech has detrimental effects on understanding, even leading to cognitive decline as the brain cells that are left without a job are likely to atrophy.
“Some people may be reluctant to address hearing loss,” explains Dr. Vandermorris, “but they need to be aware that hearing health is brain health and help is available.” In the event that your loved one’s memory loss is a sign of hearing loss rather than dementia, that untreated hearing loss will begin to affect their brain, and increase the chances of it turning into dementia.
Although there is much to be learned about the relationship between memory loss and hearing loss, the study by Dr. Susan Vandermorris and her team is ground-breaking in suggesting that the person brought in for symptoms of memory loss may actually be experiencing hearing loss. While there is much more to be learned about hearing loss and its connection to memory loss, it remains true that regular tests and treatment for hearing loss is essential.
Are you concerned that your memory loss might be related to hearing loss? At Active Hearing and Audiology, we provide comprehensive hearing health services. Contact us to book an appointment and get on the path to better hearing!