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If you have someone in your life that suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, this month is an opportunity to focus renewed efforts at finding support, treatment, and even a cure for the cognitive disorder. Although researchers have been diligently seeking remedies to the condition, they have not yet discovered a way to bring back memory or cognitive functioning for those who have already lost some of their abilities.
Preventative medicine is an additional research need, finding ways to stop Alzheimer’s before it starts. The month of September is dedicated to raising awareness of Alzheimer’s among those who are unaware of the devastating effects it can have on the individuals who experience it, as well as the families and loved ones who are tasked with caring for a person with the condition. Let’s raise a call to action so that one day we can say that Alzheimer’s is a thing of the past!
A Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia
Current research efforts have already found some explanations for how and why Alzheimer’s disease progresses, and they might come as a surprise. Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins University engaged a team of researchers to investigate the link between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. Looking broadly at dementia and the pace of cognitive decline, this team considered the trajectories of older individuals with different degrees of untreated hearing loss. Without the use of hearing aids, some of the people in the study had trouble carrying on a conversation at the onset of the study. The striking finding was that those very individuals who began the study with hearing limitations were 24 percent more likely to have their cognitive abilities diminish.
Furthermore, researchers found that those with hearing loss were likely to see a faster decline of cognitive abilities than those who did not have hearing loss. The degree of hearing loss was also correlated with the degree of cognitive decline over durational studies of 12 to 18 years. All of these findings provide striking evidence for the connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, yet you might be curious why they are connected in this way. Although these studies have been able to prove a statistical correlation between the two conditions—hearing loss and Alzheimer’s—they haven’t been able to explain the mechanism linking the two.
Some ideas about the connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s have to do with the importance of human speech for cognition. Both speaking to others and listening to them speak have been important activities for cognitive health. Communication seems to keep the flow of thought quick and fluid as we grow older. However, limited hearing ability can get in the way of these conversations. Without the ability to hear what others have to say, a person with hearing loss can struggle to put together fragments of sound into meaningful thoughts. Those fragments become like a puzzle, and a person with hearing loss finds that there are too few pieces to make a clear image of what the other person is saying. This struggle to understand can create a jumble in the mind that goes beyond the conversation itself, and some wonder if this is the way that hearing loss has been linked to conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Benefits of Seeking Hearing Loss Treatment
However, the good news is that treatment for hearing loss can wipe out the correlation with Alzheimer’s! An extensive French study directed by Professor Hélène Amieva at Université Victor Segalen tracked 3,670 randomly selected individuals aged 65 and older for 25 years. Such a long duration of the study made it possible to find out about the relationship between hearing loss, treatment such as the use of hearing aids, and cognitive decline. Indeed, the study found that those who wore hearing aids had no greater incidence of Alzheimer’s than those who had no hearing loss at all, wiping out the effect that other studies had found.
Hearing Consultants, Inc.
With such profound evidence that hearing aids can prevent Alzheimer’s in many people, what better opportunity to seek out assistance. World Alzheimer’s Month is the perfect time to make an appointment with our team at Hearing Consultants, Inc. to find out what treatment options are available for your loved one who struggles with hearing loss. Assistance is right around the corner, and you may be able to keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay.