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September is World Alzheimer’s Month! September marks the launch of this international campaign that focuses on deconstructing Alzheimer’s disease, aiming to address the stigma and misconceptions associated with it. It is estimated that the rate of people living with Alzheimer’s will more than double by 2050.
As research for a cure is ongoing, there is a global effort to discover better ways to treat Alzheimer’s and delay (or prevent) it’s development. One way to reduce the risk is by identifying and treating hearing loss. This is a great month to be proactive about your health and schedule an appointment for a hearing test!
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most severe form of dementia. Dementia refers to a group of chronic medical conditions that are characterized by loss of cognitive function(s). This includes reduced ability to remember, critically think, solve problems, concentrate etc. There are several types of dementia – Lewy body, Parkinson’s, vascular, and Huntington’s. Alzheimer’s is the most common, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia that people experience. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in the U.S.:
- Nearly 6 million people have Alzheimer’s
- 1 in 10 people above the age of 65
- 80% are 75 and older
- It is the 6th leading cause of death
- On average, people live 4-8 years after being diagnosed
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms of cognitive decline worsen over time. The early parts of Alzheimer’s can include mild memory loss which can grow into inability to have a complete conversation and/or remember people. Currently, there is no cure which is why there is a large emphasis on finding ways to delay or prevent its development.
What is the link between Alzheimer’s & hearing loss?
Like Alzheimer’s, hearing loss is a chronic medical condition that impacts one’s ability to navigate daily life with ease. Over 40 million people have some degree of impaired hearing and age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss as it impacts:
- 25% of adults ages 65-74
- 50% of adults 75 and older
In investigating the link between both conditions, research has shown that hearing loss increases the risk of developing cognitive decline. Studies have shown that compared to people without hearing loss, people with:
- mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia
- this rate triples for people with moderate hearing loss and is five times more likely for people with severe hearing loss
These incredibly significant findings show that not only does hearing loss contribute to dementia but also that the severity accelerates cognitive decline. There is ongoing research to further examine exactly how this happens but experts have suggested that hearing loss:
- results in the parts of the brain – responsible for how we process and make sense of what we hear – working less. The inactiveness of these cells and nerve pathways impact overall cognitive function.
- requires people to exert more energy to hear and process stimuli. This overworks the brain, using disproportionate energy on hearing, which affects cognitive capacity.
- often leads to social withdrawal
Treating hearing loss reduces the risk of developing cognitive decline.
What is a hearing test?
A hearing test is relatively quick and simple! It involves a noninvasive process, conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests measure your hearing ability in both ears which determines:
- any hearing impairment
- the degree of the impairment
- specific type of hearing loss
This information informs the most effective treatment options to meet your specific hearing needs. Fortunately, there are several useful ways that hearing loss is treated.
The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This significantly increases one’s ability to hear and navigate independently with greater ease. Hearing aids have evolved over the years and are smaller, and more innovative than ever; offering a wide-range of features that create seamless listening experiences.
Treating hearing loss has countless benefits including: strengthening communication, improving relationships, enhancing social life, and supporting your health by reducing your risk of developing chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Take the first step today by scheduling an appointment to have your hearing tested!