Prioritize your hearing health during World Alzheimer’s Month by taking a hearing test! Treating hearing loss can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a permanent medical condition that impacts 50 million people worldwide. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia – a group of neurological conditions that lead to declining cognitive functions like memory, decision making, learning, and thinking. Accounting for up to 90% of all dementia that is experienced today, Alzheimer’s is an incurable disease that does not have identifiable causes. Identifying and addressing risk factors is a useful strategy that is emphasized to maintain brain health and prevent (or delay) cognitive decline. Treating hearing loss is an effective intervention that reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s.  

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease 

Alzheimer’s typically starts with subtle memory loss and progressively deteriorates cognitive functions resulting in an inability to recognize others, make decisions, complete tasks, and in later stages; navigate and function independently. People could require daily assistance and regular care to ensure their safety. Experts do not know yet what causes Alzheimer’s and suggest that it is likely not due to a single cause but rather, several factors that impact people differently. There is increased research that identifies risk factors and healthy behaviors that could reduce the risk of cognitive decline. This includes hearing loss, another permanent condition which affects brain health. 

Link Between Alzheimer’s & Hearing Loss 

Age is the strongest indicator for both Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss: 

  • According to  the Alzheimer’s Association: 
    • 72% of people living with Alzheimer’s are 75 and older
    • 1 in 9 people, ages 65 and older, has Alzheimer’s 
  • The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates: 
    • 1 in 4 adults, 65 to 75, have some degree of hearing loss 
    • 50% of adults, 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss

Extensive research examines this overlap between both conditions and shows that hearing loss can increase the risk of cognitive decline. This includes a significant study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Published in 2019 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the study involved over 10,000 participants (ages 62 and older). Researchers studies their cognitive and hearing capacities over an 8-year period and found 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 

These findings highlight the substantial correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Researchers suggest that hearing loss also happens in the brain, meaning that the areas of the brain responsible for understanding and processing sound become less active. This effectus neural networks and reduces cognitive function, contributing to decline and the development of conditions like Alzehimer’s. 

Hearing Aids Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s

Treating hearing loss is a critical and effective way to protect both hearing and brain health. Fortunately there are useful ways that hearing loss is treated, the most common being with hearing aids. Hearing aids are electronic devices that are savvy pieces of technology, designed to absorb and process sound. This provides the ears and brain with significant support which alleviates hearing loss symptoms that strain communication. This enables people to hear with greater capacity and clarity and well as communicate more effectively. 

Research shows that not only does this maximize hearing in all environments, but it also strengthens brain health. This includes a 2020 study published in Science Daily. A team of researchers at the University of Melbourne assessed how hearing aids impact the brain. Researchers evaluated the hearing and cognitive abilities of close to 100 participants (ages 62-82) before using hearing aids as well as 18 months after using hearing aids. The key finding included:  

  • “97% of participants showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function (mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks)”

Treating hearing loss offers countless benefits that can enhance all aspects of life. This includes strengthening communication, improving relationships, enriching social life, and bettering overall health. World Alzheimer’s Month is a great time to commit to your hearing health. You can start with the simple step of scheduling an appointment for a hearing exam with us! Contact us today

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