The Importance of Early Detection
Hearing aids stimulate the nerve endings so the brain gets the right message, but if the brain has gone a long time without getting the right message, it forgets about it.
While we have made incredible advancements with hearing aids they can only treat so much of a hearing loss. Their main function is to help make sound come in loud and clear. Just because the sound is amplified doesn’t always mean we can make the brain understand what it is hearing. Sounds are comprised of both low tones and high tones known as frequencies. In the English language, higher tones are where the consonants are and the lower tones consist of vowels. Often times people have a harder time hearing high frequencies, which unfortunately, is where much of our understanding of speech takes place. If your brain has gone a long time without hearing these tones, your brain forgets how to process them, which in turn affects word recognition. This is why it is important to treat your hearing loss at the earliest stages so we can preserve better hearing for life! Read below for more information on the correlation between hearing loss and Alzheimers’ as well the ways hearing aids can help.
Hearing loss is now linked to Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia
According to several major studies, older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, compared to those with normal hearing. Further, the risk escalates as a person’s hearing loss grows worse. Those with mild hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing. The risk increases three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for those with severe impairment. Specifically, the risk of dementia increases among those with a hearing loss greater than 25 decibels.
How are the conditions connected?
Although the reason for the link between hearing loss and dementia is being researched, study investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both, or that the strain of decoding sounds over time may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated—a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders. In addition to being an important risk factor for Alzheimer’s and dementia, multiple studies have shown that hearing loss worsens the symptoms of these diseases when they are present. These symptoms include impaired memory, the inability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, compromised personal safety, irritability, anger, fatigue, stress, depression, and diminished over all health.
Can hearing aids help?
In response to these findings, further studies found that hearing aids can delay, or even prevent, dementia and Alzheimer’s by improving patients’ hearing. Additionally research has also shown that hearing instruments have a significant impact on interpersonal relationships and overall quality of life. Specifically, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) surveyed 4000 hearing impaired individuals and their family members and found:
- Treatment of hearing loss improves the relationship at home and with family
- The use of hearing instruments is associated with reductions in anger, frustration, paranoia and anxiety
- Most people who use hearing instruments have improved social lives
- People who use hearing instruments report better health than hard-of-hearing people who do not use hearing instruments
The bottom line
Generally speaking, hearing loss develops slowly. Our brain’s own ability to compensate and adjust to gradual hearing changes makes hearing loss difficult to recognize. That’s why it’s extremely important to have annual hearing evaluations. Catching and treating hearing loss early can slow, or stop, disease progression as well as increase an individual’s quality of life. The best thing you can do to help your loved one or yourself is to recognize the hearing problem and take action.