September marks World Alzheimer’s Month. Did you know that treating hearing loss can help reduce the risk of dementia?
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are 55 million people living with dementia globally. This is expected to rapidly increase, reaching 139 million people by 2050. Dementia enompasses several medical conditions that are characterized by cognitive decline – Parkinson’s, Lewy Body, vascular etc. The most common type is Alzheimer’s which impacts up to 70% of people with dementia.
Alzheimer’s is irreversible and there are no cures so significant emphasis is placed on prevention. Studies show that treating hearing loss can help protect brain health and reduce the risk of developing dementia.
How Are Hearing Loss & Alzheimer’s Connected?
Hearing is a process that happens in the ears as well as the brain. Studies show that hearing loss can also impact the brain in ways that contribute to cognitive decline. This includes a major study published in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association in 2019. Conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, this study included 10,107 people, ages 62 and older. Researchers evaluated the cognitive and hearing capacities of these participants over 8 years and found that people with hearing loss were much more likely to experience cognitive decline.
Compared to participants without hearing loss, cognitive decline among those with impaired hearing 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 data reveals two important findings: there is a significant correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline and the greater the hearing loss is, the greater the risk can be. This supports extensive research that identifies hearing loss as a risk factor for cognitive decline.
Hearing Aids Improve Brain Health
There are effective ways that hearing loss is treated which offers countless benefits for overall health and wellness. The most common treatment is hearing aids – electronic devices that are designed to absorb and process speech as well as sound. Hearing aids alleviate symptoms and increase capacity to hear which allows people to navigate communication with greater ease. Not only does this strengthen communication but it also improves brain health. Studies show that hearing aids strengthen cognitive functions:
- 2020 Study Published in Science Daily: researchers at the University of Melbourne assessed cognitive capacities for nearly 100 participants (ages 62-82) before and after using hearing aids. Researchers evaluated people before hearing aids and 18 months after wearing the device and found that “97% of participants showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function (mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks)”.
- 2018 Study Published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society: this study involved researchers investigating the impact of wearing hearing aids in over 2,000 people. Researchers conducted memory tests every two years for 18 year and found that hearing aids used improved scores on memory tests, demonstrating a measurable improvement of cognitive functions.
These studies show that hearing aids support brain health and strengthen cognitive functions as well as neural networks. Experts suggest that this can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and the development of conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Prioritize Your Hearing Health Today
There is a wide range of hearing healthcare services, resources, and treatment options that are available to you. The first step is to schedule an appointment for a hearing test. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests involve a painless and invasive process that measures hearing capacity in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment present. Once your hearing needs are established, your hearing healthcare provider is able to recommend treatment options to best meet those needs. Treating hearing loss enhances quality of life and supports people living fully.
World Alzheimer’s Month is a great reminder and invitation to prioritize your hearing health which can also protect your brain health, helping prevent Alzheimer’s. You can do this with one simple step: contact us to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. Our practice offers quality services and individualized care that centers your hearing health and wellness.