Alzheimer's Disease and dementia made worse with hearing loss

The many faces of dementia made worse by unidentified hearing loss

Alzheimer disease and dementia made worse by hearing loss.  September 21 was World Alzheimer’s day.  Actor Charlton Heston, actor and former President Ronald Regan, and more recently women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee Pat Summit were all diagnosed with dementia.  Hearing Loss not only compounds the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, but may also be an important risk factor.  Here are four reasons why maintaining good hearing is important for maintaining a healthy mind.

  • Some cases of Alzheimer’s and Dementia are made worse by hearing loss.  A 1986 study showed that 83% of the 30 of the patients diagnosed with senile dementia also had a significant hearing loss.  33% of those were reclassified to a less severe category of dementia once their hearing loss was corrected.
  • Uncorrected hearing loss leads to depression which is also associated with Alzheimer’s.A Dutch study found that Alzheimer’s was 2.5 times more likely in people with a history of depression. Hearing loss caused listeners to withdraw socially which lead to depression and anxiety.  The National Council of Aging published a study that showed listeners who then corrected their hearing loss showed significant improvements in relationships at home, feelings of self worth, and mental health.
  • Improved hearing provides significant stimulation to the brain.A hearing loss isolates the listening from their environment.  Corrected hearing stimulates the brain and helps us comprehend the world around us.  Like doing a crossword puzzles, just conversing with someone stimulates vital sections of the brain.
  • Uncorrected hearing loss can make Alzheimer’s and Dementia worse.Even if you already have symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, correcting for hearing loss decreases the effects of memory loss.  A 1999 study showed that testing and correcting hearing loss in Alzheimer’s patient could be done effectively.  The study showed that there was a significant improvement in everyday communication.  This improvement in hearing resulted in a decreased burden on caregivers

So the message today is that if you are concerned about memory problems, it’s  time to have your hearing tested.  If you or someone you know is having difficulty with their hearing or memory, schedule a hearing test with an audiologist.  Hearing testing is painless and most insurance companies with pay for all of the examination done by an audiologist.  And if it is nothing more than a hearing problem, the audiologist can help you to hear and understand better.

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