Celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month with a Hearing Test!

Jesse Western

Each year we set aside the month of September to celebrate research successes regarding Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, as well as the fortitude of those who care for people with these conditions.

Rather than focusing on the lack of a cure, we shift our perspective to remember the strides that have been taken in that direction. One thriving area of research is the discovery of risk factors that can lead to a higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Before we look at this vital research, let’s take a moment to remember the common experiences of a person with Alzheimer’s disease. These early warning signs are important to keep in mind for ourselves as well as our aging loved ones.

Early Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

It is difficult to pinpoint the day on which a person transitioned to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, because many of the early warning signs are evident in all of us. For instance, one of the most common early warning signs is memory loss. Yet, who hasn’t forgotten a name or misplaced keys from time to time?

The way to tell that this early warning sign might be an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease is to take note of the frequency of lapses of memory. Certainly, young people can have gaps in memory, and these “senior moments” become more common as the years go by. If you or your loved one experiences a lapse of memory quite frequently, even daily, then it might be time to consult with your general practitioner or a cognitive specialist.

Other early warning signs are similarly common all along the lifespan, and the difference is one of degree. If you find yourself disoriented in space, struggling to perform tasks that used to be simple, losing track of your train of thought midway through a conversation, or mixing up numbers, these events are common occurrences for anyone from time to time. However, if they get in the way of your everyday functioning or give you a feeling of unease and uncertainty, then you may want to ask if they might be an early warning sign.

Finally, many people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia feel anxious or hesitant to take part in social events. Many even isolate themselves in order to avoid the discomfort of becoming confused in a conversation or disoriented within a group of people. This social isolation can lead to depression and anxiety, so it is important to note resistance to social activity for yourself or those you love. When considered in combination with these other early warning signs, the possibility of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is something you should begin to consider.

Hearing Loss Treatment and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

Although researchers are not yet able to make a decisive statement on how the two conditions are connected, studies have shown a strong relationship between dementia and hearing loss. How can this relationship be?

The two conditions seem unrelated at first glance, with one tending to be localized in the cochlea of the inner ear and the other taking place in the gray matter of the brain. Brain imaging through fMRI scans have revealed a possible way that these conditions are connected. When a person has a full range of hearing, the mind can devote a small region to processing audio information and sending it along to other parts of the brain for more complex thought.

However, if hearing ability is compromised, other parts of the brain are recruited to the complex task of putting together fragments of sound into complete thoughts. When more of the brain’s processing capacity is devoted to simply making sense of this sonic puzzle, it results in an overwhelming cognitive load for other functions, such as memory and complex thought.

Although more research is needed in this area, the knowledge of a connection between the two conditions should be enough to prompt you to seek a hearing test right away. The longer you wait between hearing loss and getting treatment, the more strain you are placing on your brain’s ability to function. Don’t delay getting the treatment you need! Contact us today to schedule a hearing test.