Every September marks the international effort World Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia that people can have, and the disease affects millions of people all across the world. The disease most frequently affects older people: the National Institute on Aging writes that the “number of people with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65…About one-third of all people age 85 and older may have Alzheimer’s disease.”
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
While it is commonly understood that older people are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease, and are perhaps more impacted by a range of issues that accompany cognitive decline, researchers are finding that they not the only people affected by the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is just one of the organizations that is interested in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which can affect people who are as young as 30 years old. The Alzheimer’s Association in fact reports that, in the United States alone, early-onset Alzheimer’s may be affecting approximately 200,000 people who are under the age of 65.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease, and it is frequently associated as the disease that affects people’s memories. It can be especially hard for with Alzheimer’s to remember new information, and to make new memories. This memory loss progresses as the disease progresses. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, memory loss often looks forgetting small things, such as where you put your keys down. The memory loss can be quite severe as the disease progresses, unfortunately. People with more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s may forget loved one’s names and be unable to tell one person from the next. Some people with Alzheimer’s struggle with their spatial awareness and can become easily disoriented, even in their own homes. The advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease often change people’s personalities and cause extreme behavioral changes, and with progressive Alzheimer’s can cause shifts in moods, making people with the disease quite irritable, and make people suspicious and paranoid.
Researchers have been looking into Alzheimer’s for many decades and they suggest that there may be several causes of the disease, including genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Studies have specifically shown that there may be links between Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss that goes untreated.
The Link Between Untreated Hearing Loss & Dementia
Untreated hearing loss has long been understood as a sign of a variety of cognitive and physical health issues, which can range from anxiety to cardiovascular disease. Untreated hearing loss has been linked, for example, to depression in several studies that have been conducted by organizations including the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, The National Council on the Aging, and others. When it comes to the links between Alzheimer’s disease, in particular, and untreated hearing loss, researchers are still doing great work. One 2011 study conducted at Johns Hopkins University tracked nearly 2,000 older people around the age of 77 years old between 12 years and 18 years, wanting to understand how hearing loss and cognitive decline may be connected. They found that “people with hearing loss were 24% more likely to have Alzheimer’s,” as one researcher wrote, continuing later by explaining that “the worse the hearing loss was, the more likely the person was to develop dementia.”
Alzheimer’s disease can’t be cured, but it is never too late to pay close attention to the hearing health habits of yourself and your loved ones. Treating hearing loss could potentially help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, though there is no definitive answer as to whether or how the disease can be prevented. That being said, the overall physical and mental health benefits of treating hearing loss are great.
Pacific Northwest Audiology
Perhaps the first and easiest step you can take is to get a hearing test. If a hearing loss is detected, our team can help you find the option best suited to your needs. We can also help you learn about healthy hearing habits, including using earplugs when you expect to be in loud conditions, limiting your use of in-ear headphones, and simply covering your ears when exposed to sudden loud sounds. The more conscious you are of your hearing, the better equipped you will be to think about and track other perhaps more serious issues such as Alzheimer’s disease. Contact us at Pacific Northwest Audiology today to learn more!