Each year, June is marked as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. The Alzheimer’s Association aims to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s and other brain dementia. With more awareness, more people will be driven to act.
It’s estimated that more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. This figure is expected to rise to almost 14 million by 2050.
The Alzheimer’s Association notes: “Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of dementia cases.”
For the millions of American families affected by Alzheimer’s, the disease can take over their lives. Researchers have dedicated years to improve our understanding of the disease. While there is still no cure, our understanding has improved. We have greater understanding of steps people can take to slow the onset or reduce their risks.
One such step is looking after your hearing.
What’s the Connection Between Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s?
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have carried out studies looking at the connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s. Over several years, researchers met with seniors. They recorded those who developed Alzheimer’s. Additionally, the researchers recorded how quickly the Alzheimer’s progressed.
The studies showed that dementia was seen more in seniors with hearing loss.
In fact, the risks of developing dementia increased depending on how bad the hearing loss was.
- Seniors with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia
- Seniors with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely
- Seniors with severe hearing loss were five times more likely
While the studies don’t indicate that the dementia is caused by hearing loss, it does highlight a link between both. Researchers have suggested this could be due to a few factors, such as:
Changes to how your brain functions – Losing your hearing can actually change how your brain functions. In some cases, this can change how your brain is structured, potentially relating to the impact of Alzheimer’s.
Additional cognitive load – Cognitive fatigue is a known effect of hearing loss. Straining to hear forces your brain to work harder. It can actually sap your brain’s energy. While your brain is forced to concentrate on hearing, there’s less resource to put towards other cognitive functions (like memory).
Social isolation – Difficulty hearing can cause many to isolate socially. This drop in social interaction can lead to loneliness and depression. Lacking the stimulation that social environments provide can alter your brain’s structure.
A diagnosis of hearing loss doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, the studies do indicate that protecting your hearing can help your cognitive health.
Early detection of hearing loss can reduce the impact it has on your quality of life. If you are due a hearing assessment, please book in an appointment with the hearing specialists at Anderson Audiology. Call us on 702-997-2964 or click here to request an appointment online.