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Know Alzheimer's Disease Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer's Month(3) (2)

Know Alzheimer’s Disease: Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer’s Month

Dr. Li-Korotky

Participate in World Alzheimer’s Month by scheduling a hearing test! Treating hearing loss reduces the risk of experiencing cognitive decline and developing conditions like Alzheimer’s. Launched in 2012, this international campaign creates awareness and challenges the stigma associated with dementia. Impacting 50 million people globally, dementia refers to a group of medical conditions that deteriorate brain health. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, accounting for up to 90% of all dementia that is experienced today. Treating hearing loss can help prevent or delay its development by strengthening cognitive functions. 

Understanding Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that progressively reduces cognitive functions related to memory, thinking, decision making, and learning. It often starts with mild memory loss which can gradually become an inability to recognize loved ones, participate in conversations, make decisions, and complete ordinary tasks. This has profound effects on one’s personality, behavior, and engagement with others. People living with later stages of Alzheimer’s may require assistance with living and navigating daily life. 

Though exact causes of Alzheimer’s are unknown, experts suggest that it likely occurs as a result of a combination of factors that impact people differently. Research has shown that the brain experiences changes before the onset of Alzheimer’s  which identifies a window of time for interventions that could possibly prevent or delay its development. Hearing loss has been established as a risk factor for cognitive decline so treatment is a useful way to protect brain health!

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss impacts an estimated 48 million people, making it the third most common chronic medical condition that people navigate today. 1 in 5 people have some degree of hearing loss, highlighting just how pervasive impaired hearing is. There are several factors that can contribute to its development including the following common causes: 

  • Aging: age related hearing loss is also known as presbycusis. Age is the most significant indicator of hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 50% of adults ages 75 and older have hearing loss. This can occur as a result of natural changes the ears experiences over time, or coexisting medical conditions that also impact older adults disproportionately. 
  • Loud noise: exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. These hair cells help translate soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain to be further processed; allowing us to understand what we can hear. Loud noise, absorbed one time or consistently, can cause these hair cells to lose sensitivity and/or die, reducing their processing ability and causing hearing loss. 
  • Existing conditions: several medical conditions can increase the risk of developing hearing loss. This includes: hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions which all impact blood flow throughout the body including the ears; impacting how sound is processed. 

Other causes include genetic history of hearing loss as well as head and neck injuries. Hearing loss reduces capacity to perceive and process sound which results in a range of symptoms that disrupts daily life. 

Link Between Hearing Loss & Alzheimer’s

Hearing loss impacts the brain in various ways that contributes to cognitive decline. Extensive research has shown that people with hearing loss are more likely to experience cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s. This includes a 2019 study of over 10,000 participants who were evaluated for an 8-year period. Researchers found that cognitive decline was: 

  • 30% higher among people with mild hearing loss 
  • 42% higher among people with moderate hearing loss 
  • 54% higher among people with severe hearing loss 

This highlights a significant correlation between conditions, also revealing that the severity of hearing loss increases the risk. Researchers suggest that hearing loss also happens in the brain, rendering the specific areas of the brain responsible for processing sound less active. This inactivity changes neural networks and can contribute to declining function of those areas. 

Hearing Aids Reduce Risk of Cognitive Decline

The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These are electronic devices that absorb and process sound, providing the ears and brain with significant support. This maximizes hearing and communication as well as strengthens cognitive functions. Hearing aids support brain health, reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Contact us today to schedule a hearing test!