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Like a machine, the different processes of our health need to be in sync and properly maintained to keep us going strong. This September marks World Alzheimer’s Month, which sheds light on the cognitive condition that affects millions worldwide. At Encore Hearing, this is a concern because of the growing body of research that links hearing loss and dementia.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition that impacts areas which control thought, memory, emotion, and language. Throughout the world, two out of three people believe there is little to no understanding of dementia in their respective countries. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are projected to impact 152 million people world-wide by 2050. Each year there is an international effort to raise world-wide awareness of Alzheimer’s, including the most common form which is dementia. Numerous studies from researchers in the U.S. and Europe link untreated hearing loss to dementia.
Other Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease
In addition to untreated hearing loss, some other factors may put you more at risk for getting Alzheimer’s, such as: rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and obesity. Each of these factors increases your risk of getting dementia three to six times more than someone who doesn’t have these issues.
Memory loss is an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s more serious than occasionally not remembering where you put your keys. Indicators could include: finding the right words, problems understanding what people are saying, not being able to perform what were previously routine tasks, personality and mood changes, getting lost in familiar places, trouble handling cash and paying bills, repeating the same questions over and over in a very short time, placing items in odd places and confusion over time and events. Personality changes that occur include paranoia and distrust of family members as well as caregivers.
As Alzheimer’s disease advances, it robs the individual of the ability to function in any sort of environment. If you see a loved one experiencing these issues, make sure that untreated hearing loss isn’t part of the problem.
Hearing Loss and Cognition
Hearing loss affects 48 million Americans and as you get older, the chances of experiencing hearing loss increase. Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins University, has conducted several studies involving cognition and hearing loss. Results support the theory that treating hearing loss can stave off cognitive decline and dementia. In other words, it is imperative you don’t ignore hearing loss or treat it as a natural part of aging. The first step is to get a hearing evaluation at Encore Hearing Care.
Keeping Your Brain Active
Social interaction, utilizing your thinking skills outside the home for driving, shopping, hiking, baking, doing the crossword puzzle, reading, and even watching game shows are all great ways to keep your brain active.
Untreated hearing loss causes your brain to struggle with decoding sounds and conversations. It puts what scientists call a “cognitive load” on certain areas of the brain and not others. If you are using too much of your brain for the same thing – other cognitive abilities suffer.
Brain imaging studies of seniors with untreated hearing loss shows less gray matter in some parts of the brain. The conclusion by those who studied the data was that the brain didn’t change, but certain brain cells that were no longer being used because of lack of stimulation had started to shrink. Those with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from their friends and social activities. Lack of socialization as well as depression have long been recognized as factors that can lead to cognitive decline and dementia. Study subjects who used hearing aids reported an increase in both their physical and mental well-being.
This month, in honor of World Alzheimer’s Month, make sure that your hearing is sound. At Encore Hearing, we provide comprehensive hearing services. If a hearing loss is detected, our team will make sure that you have hearing aids that fit your lifestyle and your needs.