Celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month with a Hearing Test!

September 17, 2020
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September is World Alzheimer’s Month! Launched in 2012 by Alzheimer’s Disease International, this month is dedicated to raising global awareness about dementia as well as deconstructing the misconceptions and stigma often associated with it. Dementia refers to a group of medical conditions that reduce cognitive abilities (memory, thinking, decision making etc.). There are several types of dementia including: Lewy Body, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and vascular and Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the most common as well as severe type, affecting 60-80% of people living with dementia.

An incurable medical condition, Alzheimer’s is a gradual disease that nearly 6 million people are impacted by in the U.S. There is extensive research committed to discovering ways to delay or prevent the development of Alzheimer’s. Studies have revealed that hearing loss is actually a contributing factor that can be addressed and effectively treated!

Understanding Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that older adults experience. Impairment to hearing reduces one’s ability to absorb and process sound which can be caused by a several factors including:

  • Existing medical conditions: such as hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes can contribute to the development of hearing loss.

  • Genetic history: family history of impaired hearing can make it likelier because specific genes impacting the auditory system can be inherited.

  • Loud noise: environmental exposure to loud noise (concerts, job sites, sports arena etc.) can permanently damage the hair cells in the inner ear causing hearing loss.

Hearing loss often happens gradually so it can remain unnoticed for quite some time. It is important to be aware of the symptoms which include:

  • Tinnitus: buzzing or ringing noise in one or both ears

  • Increasing the volume on television, smartphone, speaker or other electronic devices

  • Needing others to speak louder and/or slower

  • Sounds are muffled making it difficult to hear distinct words

  • Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise

  • Asking others to repeat themselves

These symptoms can be experienced mildly to profoundly which drastically impacts one’s ability to manage their personal and professional responsibilities. Untreated hearing loss can worsen these symptoms and well as one’s health by leading to the development of other medical conditions including cognitive decline.

Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease & Hearing Loss

Research has shown a strong correlation between both chronic conditions. Studies have revealed that hearing loss increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and that the more severe the hearing loss, the likelier cognitive decline is. The 2019 study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School fund 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

How hearing loss contributes to cognitive decline is still the subject of ongoing research but experts suggest a few theories including that hearing loss causes:

  • Cognitive overload: your brain exerts more energy to process sound which takes a toll on overall cognitive function

  • Inactivity: hearing loss means that parts of the brain are not working at full capacity and the inactivity of certain brain cells and nerve pathways impacts cognitive ability

  • Social withdrawal: a common impact of hearing loss which results in less engagement and stimuli for the brain and body, impacting cognitive function

Being proactive about your hearing health also reduces your risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s. The best way to do this is by having your hearing tested!

What to Expect from a Hearing Test

Hearing tests are relatively simple, quick, and painless! Here is what you can expect:

  • Medical Intake: similar to most medical appointments, your medical history including current symptoms will be reviewed.

  • Hearing Test: wearing headphones, you will respond to the sounds you can hear which are played by a machine. This process is conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist (most commonly, an audiologist).

  • Treatment: if the test establishes any impairment, the audiologist will discuss best treatment options that meet your specific hearing needs. The most common treatment is hearing aids which significantly increase one’s ability to hear and improves overall health.

A great way to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month is by scheduling an appointment to get your hearing tested! Contact us today.