September is World Alzheimer’s Month

Jesse Western

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness around Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a challenging condition for those who live with the it, and also for all those who love and care for them, ranging from children, loved ones, partners, and other family members.

What is the best way to honor these many people who are touched by the condition? Raising awareness about dementia is one step, but another crucial initiative for September is the active pursuit of more support and funding for research into the causes, prevention, treatment, and an eventual cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Let’s take a moment to look into one of the important results of research into a link between dementia and hearing loss. Knowledge of this connection can point us toward preventative steps, including the use of hearing aids.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss

Although the connection may come as a surprise to some, researchers have established a significant link between rates of dementia and rates of hearing loss in the population. Specifically, Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins University and his team of researchers have shown that those with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s, than their counterparts who do not have hearing loss. Furthermore, hearing loss predicts a faster decline in cognitive ability from the time of the dementia diagnosis. With this in mind, other researchers have wondered how the connection works. Many point to the social isolation that occurs when people with untreated hearing loss begin to avoid loved ones and their favorite activities.

Hélène Amieva and a team of epidemiologists and biostatisticians in Bordeaux, France looked into the connection between hearing aid usage and dementia in a large-scale longitudinal study. This research looked at a large group of people over 25 years to follow the effects of a number of lifestyle and demographic differences in hearing ability. One of the illuminating findings of the study demonstrated that those who wore hearing aids were no more likely than the general public to develop dementia, essentially erasing the effect of hearing loss that appeared in other research.

Hearing Aids and Reducing the Risk for Dementia

This groundbreaking finding tells us that hearing loss and dementia may not be directly neurologically linked but rather indirectly connected in the social process of conversation. Consider the thinking process of a person with hearing loss. Rather than hearing full sentences and phrases, their minds can only catch random syllables and disconnected sounds, presenting a puzzle to piece together on the fly. In conversation, a person with hearing loss might grasp at any other clues to put together the best guess at what that other person is saying. This confusing process results in a heavy cognitive load, making the head scramble in pursuit of the right meanings.

Researchers now wonder if that mental scrambling might carry over to other realms of thought, even paving the way for dementia to set in. Add to this the fact that a person with hearing loss might be less likely to engage in conversation at all, becoming socially withdrawn and receding into their own world.

With these possibilities in mind, the research finding about hearing aid use is even more telling. Although they do not reduce the likelihood of hearing loss to zero, they can eliminate the extra effect of hearing loss on rates of dementia and potentially even Alzheimer’s disease.

Hearing Improvement Center

If you or someone you love has hearing loss, World Alzheimer’s Month is the perfect chance to seek out assistance. The first step will be to schedule an appointment with our team at Hearing Improvement Center for a hearing test and consultation.

Once we gather information about your individual hearing ability and lifestyle needs, they will be able to recommend the right hearing aids to assist you. Once you put these devices into use, you will already be taking preventative steps against Alzheimer’s. Communication is the key to many aspects of life, not only social relationships and partnerships, but also the process of cognition. With treatment for hearing loss, you’ll reconnect to your loved ones with clear and easy communication!