September 2018 is World Alzheimer’s Month, and World Alzheimer’s Day is September 21 each year. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, “2 out of every 3 people globally believe there is little or no understanding of dementia in their countries. The impact of World Alzheimer’s Month is growing, but the stigmatization and misinformation that surrounds dementia remains a global problem that requires global action.”
This month, organizations around the globe are raising awareness about the impact of dementia and to provide support to those who suffer from it globally. Here at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center, we are well aware of the correlation between untreated hearing loss and the potential risk for developing dementia. We want to take this opportunity to encourage you to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and how treating hearing loss can help reduce the risk for developing these diseases.
What is Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Dementia is a “collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behavior, and emotion.”
- Alzheimer’s disease is “the most common type of dementia, affecting up to 90% of people living with dementia.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.”
Prevalence of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia both are found among older people, typically over the age of 65. While there is no single cause for these disorders, scientists believe that “like other chronic conditions, it is probably a result of multiple factors.” As a result, people are encouraged to watch their high blood pressure, exercise regularly, and quit smoking to reduce the risk of these diseases, amongst others that affect people over the age of 65.
One simple way to care for your health and potentially reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is to take an annual hearing test and treat hearing loss if it appears.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Dementia
Dementia and hearing loss share a statistic: one in three people over the age of 65 are at risk for developing these conditions. A growing body of research points to a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, with a promising revelation that treating hearing loss could potentially reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US, and it is most prevalent among people over the age of 65. While hearing loss is often linked to the natural process of aging, scientific studies suggest that hearing plays a vital role in brain health–and the loss of hearing can lead to diminished cognitive function. The good news is that researchers are finding more supporting evidence that treating hearing loss could support cognitive processes, which could reduce the risk for developing dementia.
Dr. Frank Lin, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, as well as other researchers, have several theories that could explain the link between hearing and dementia, though they aren’t yet sure which one will prove correct.
Dr. Lin has led several recent studies which show a link between hearing and cognitive problems, from mild impairment all the way to dementia. In two separate studies, one in 2011 and another in 2013, the cognitive abilities of participants were shown to be diminished by severe hearing loss.
The first study tracked the cognitive health of 639 people who were mentally sharp at the outset of the study. The researchers tested the participants’ mental abilities regularly, most for about 12 years and some for 18 years. A strong relationship was found between the severity of initial hearing loss and a participant’s’ risk of developing dementia. Even those with only moderate hearing loss were found to have a tripled risk of developing this condition.
In the second study, Dr. Lin and his colleagues looked at the overall cognitive abilities of nearly 2,000 seniors whose average age was 77. Those who began the study with severe hearing loss were found to have a 24 percent higher chance of age-related cognitive decline.
However, Dr. Lin was quick to note that having an increased risk of dementia does not necessarily mean that a person will develop it. He gave for an example his 92-year-old grandmother who has had moderately-severe hearing loss for years and is still “sharp as a tack”.
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
Hearing specialists recommend an annual hearing test from the age of 50. If a hearing loss is detected, our team at Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center can work with you to find the best solution to meet your needs.