Hearing Loss Linked To Alzheimerswhats The Connection
Studies suggest that hearing loss causes brain changes that raise the risk for dementia. Brain shrinkage When the hearing section of the brain grows inactive, it results in tissue loss and changes in brain structurecreating the first link between hearing loss and Alzheimers disease. Studies show that the brains of people with hearing loss shrinkor atrophymore quickly than the brains of people with normal hearing.Brain overload An overwhelmed brain creates the second link between hearing loss and dementia. When its difficult to hear, the brain must work overtime just to understand what people are saying. Straining to hear all day, every day, depletes a persons mental energy and steals brain power needed for other crucial functions like remembering, thinking, and acting. This can further set the stage for Alzheimers, dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Hearing Aids Can Help Prevent Dementia
Numerous studies show that hearing aids not only improve a persons hearingthey also help preserve a persons independence, mental abilities, emotional and physical health, and work, home, and social lives. A full, happy life keeps your brain active.
Early identification and treatment of a potential hearing loss helps minimize risks later in life.
Do Hearing Aids Reverse Cognitive Decline
Dr. Curhans research didnt get a clear answer to this question. Among volunteers with severe hearing loss, those who wore hearing aids had a slightly lower risk of subsequent subjective cognitive decline than those who didnt. But the effect was too small to be statistically significant.
Because they keep you connected withothers, hearing aids can help preventsocial isolation.
She would like to see hearing aids and cognitive decline get a hard look. There isnt much evidence over long periods of time and what we have isnt conclusive, she notes. Several studies have found no relation between hearing aid use and cognitive function decline, while others have been suggestive of a possible association, she told Healthy Hearing. This relation merits further study.
One recent and very large observational study did shed more light on this issue, finding that hearing aids appeared to delay the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia, along with depression and falls that cause injuries. However, it was not a randomized controlled trial, so the results could have been for other reasons .
As well, one large 2018 study analyzed results from more than 2,000 Americans age 50 and up who took word recall tests every two years for up to 18 years. Among those who acquired hearing aids along the way, the evidence suggested that the aids slowed the rate they lost memory of words.
His answer, Do they do it from the drawer?
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How Do I Prevent Dementia
In this case, preventing cognitive decline is actually easier than you might expect. The solution is simple: hearing aids. You may have discussed hearing aids with you a loved one who has hearing loss or even with your own doctor. It might be something you want to put off, but why wait?
The first step is to come to the ENT Institute and receive a hearing test from one of our many audiologists. From there, a treatment plan will be discussed.
Hearing Loss And Social Isolation
The third link between hearing loss and Alzheimers is social isolation. A study by The National Council on the Aging of 2,300 hearing impaired adults found that people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to experience loneliness, worry, depression, anxiety, and paranoiaand are less likely to join organized and casual social activities. When a person withdraws from life, their risk for dementia intensifies. In short, the less we stimulate our brains by interacting with other people, places, and thingsand the less we use our brains to hear and listenthe more quickly our brains decline, putting us at greater risk for dementia.
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Hearing Loss And Dementia: The Silent Connection
Scientists are finding more and more evidence that trouble with hearing makes you more likely to go on to have dementia, a condition marked by memory loss and trouble with thinking, problem-solving, and other mental tasks.
That doesnt mean that people with hearing loss are guaranteed to have dementia — simply that the odds are higher. There may be things you can do to lower your chances for mental decline, even if you start to have trouble hearing.
How Do Hearing Aids Fight Dementia
The University of Michigan puts it likes this: In all, the relative risk of being diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimers disease, within three years of a hearing loss diagnosis was 18% lower for hearing aid users. The risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety by the end of three years was 11% lower for hearing aid users, and the risk of being treated for fall-related injuries was 13% lower. .
We get it. Hearing aids arent the most glamorous form of treatment to think about, but its a necessary tool for our health. If youre unsure about hearing aids and are unsure if you or a loved one should move forward with them, just check out some of the benefits below:
- Promotes brain health
- Invisible devices, such as Phonaks Lyric, promotes 100% invisibility
- Streams music straight to your device
- Real-time language translation for international travel
- Physical and mental health tracking, promoting a healthier lifestyle
- Direct app connection for ease-of-use
And if thats not enough, just watch the videos below:
The first step is to schedule a hearing screener to find out if you have hearing loss. To do that, call 770-740-1860 or fill out the form at the top for same-day appointments.
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How Does Your Hearing Affect Dementia Risk
In 2020, a study reviewing risk factors for dementia suggested people with unaddressed midlife hearing loss may be up to five times more likely to have the condition than those without hearing loss.
With around 1 million people affected by dementia in the UK, and 12 million people estimated to have a type of hearing loss, its never been more important to understand this link.
Does Hearing Loss Cause Dementia
- ENT Institute
Dementia is one of the worst things to watch someone suffer through, especially when they start forgetting names and faces of loved ones. But the disease doesnt stop there. It actually shuts down the body as well, eventually leading to death. Think about it: the brain helps our bodies function the way that they do. Once the brain is affected with a debilitating disease, the body begins to suffer as well. TIME released an article confirming this very thing with a study that was done with dementia patients . In that study, Dr. Susan Mitchell of the Hebrew SeniorLife Institute stated that, Our main findings confirmed dementia has high mortality.
So why is someone from an ear, nose and throat practice telling you all of this? Well, its because hearing loss causes dementia. Thats right. If you or a loved one has hearing loss, you could be at risk for dementia further down the road. But what does hearing loss have to do with dementia?
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Can Untreated Hearing Loss Cause Dementia
Dementia is a term for a range of conditions that affect the brain such as memory loss and difficulties with thinking or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by various diseases. Alzheimers is perhaps the most common and well-known cause of dementia. However, it isnt the only one.
Hearing Impairment: Cause Canary Or Corollary Of Dementia
The complex pathophysiological relations between hearing impairment and dementia remain to be fully defined. Impoverished sensory fidelity due to peripheral hearing loss or disturbed subcortical auditory trafficking will potentially have effects both on auditory cognition and more general cognitive functions such as attention, executive processing and perceptual learning , leading to vicious cycling. Hearing loss might therefore produce both syndromic and generic cognitive signatures. The balance of these is likely to depend on stimulus and task demands as well as the particular neurodegenerative process. Emerging epidemiological evidence suggests that hearing impairment may potentiate neurodegeneration, perhaps via an interaction of aberrant auditory activity with culprit proteinopathies in vulnerable neural circuits . Indeed, hearing impairment might constitute a facilitating cause of neurodegenerative disease evolution, an early warning canary for impending cognitive disaster or an accompaniment of established dementia: these non-exclusive mechanisms would have mutually reinforcing consequences for auditory brain function.
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Wearing Hearing Aids Means Im Old And Im Not Ready For That
Its normal to feel worried that hearing loss means youre agingand to want to hide it. Plenty of people with a hearing impairment sit silently rather than joining in conversations and activities, because they fear that hearing problems will make them seem helpless or less than competent. The truth: Connecting with others can help your brain stay younger and keep you involved with life.
Help With Hearing Aids
There is a lot to learn about using hearing aids and this can be particularly difficult if a person has dementia. Care and support staff can play a vital role in ensuring that a person with dementia benefits reliably from their hearing aid.
Here are some basic tips from Action on Hearing Loss:
- Make sure hearing aids are checked every day to make sure they are working and that the person is wearing them correctly.
- Learn how to use the t-switch and controls on hearing aids, how to change batteries and how to clean hearing aids
- Make sure arrangements are in place for hearing aid re-tubing, repairs and battery replacement. Local audiology departments should be able to help with this.
- Try to minimise the number of lost hearing aids, and ensure that lost hearing aids are replaced as quickly as possible.
- Get to know who to consult to examine ears for wax and to arrange ear syringing, where appropriate.
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Ive Heard Hearing Loss Can Cause Dementia Is This True
Weve been hearing this question quite a bit recently due to a study published in January thats been in the news.
The simple answer is: maybe. The findings reported by a researcher at Johns Hopkins University showed that in a group of almost 2,000 older adults , cognitive difficulties developed more quickly in people with hearing loss than in those with normal hearing.
Whether the hearing loss was a direct contributing factor to the early onset of symptoms related to dementia is not certain at this point. However, the researcher responsible for the study, Frank Lin, has pointed out that social isolation is itself a risk factor for dementia. And as we have seen all too well, social isolation is often an unfortunate effect of hearing lossone that fortunately can be assisted greatly with expertly fit, well-adjusted hearing aids.
What About Cognitive Decline Is This Same As Dementia
They are similar and are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are some differences. As explained by Dr Nicolas Reed of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, cognitive decline represents a change in thinking and memory abilities in one or more cognitive domains, such as processing speech, working memory, expressive language, or complex attention.
On the other hand, dementia is characterised by a major decline in one or more cognitive domains and the cognitive deficits are enough to interfere with independence in daily activities. The criterion of interference with independence is what separates a mild cognitive impairment from dementia. In other words, a person could have cognitive decline without dementia, but if you have dementia, you also will have cognitive decline.
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How Hearing Loss May Change The Brain
Hearing loss does seem to shrink some parts of the brain responsible for auditory response. In a study led by Jonathan Peelle, now at Washington University in St. Louis, older adults underwent brain scans while they listened to sentences of varying complexity. They also took tests that measured gray matter, the regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control.
It turned out that the neurons in people with hearing loss were less active when they focused on complex sentences. They also had less gray matter in the auditory areas. These effects may accumulate with time or be triggered by age: In other research, Peelle found that older adults with hearing loss do worse on speech comprehension tasks than younger adults with hearing loss.
So Why Does Hearing Loss Appear To Be Connected With Cognitive Impairment
There are several explanations for why hearing ability and thinking skills appear to be connected. First, hearing loss can lead to social isolation which is linked to cognitive impairment. Second, since hearing loss causes the brain to work overtime processing the signals from the ears, it is possible that the brain has less energy to expend on other cognitive functions.
And heres where there might be some evidence for causation: 2015 results from an ongoing study called the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of aging which was started all the way back in 1958 showed that hearing loss is linked to accelerated brain tissue loss. After analyzing MRIs of people with with impaired hearing, scientists found that those with hearing loss lost more than an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue per year compared with those who didnt have hearing loss.
In particular, those with hearing loss had more shrinkage in brain structures responsible for processing hearing and sound. Scientists think this shrinkage is because people with hearing loss have decreased stimulation in parts of the brain that control hearing and speech. This can also explain the relationship between hearing loss and dementia since dementia involves damage to the brain.
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The Auditory Brain: Structural And Functional Substrates For Neurodegeneration
The auditory system has evolved to allow adaptive behavioural responses to complex, dynamic acoustic environments . However, its structural and functional characteristics confer specific vulnerabilities to neurodegenerative pathologies.
Anatomically, the hierarchy of auditory processing relays and in particular the large-scale cerebral networks that process sound information are highly distributed. The spread of pathogenic proteins in neurodegenerative dementias targets these networks rather than the peripheral organs of hearing. Though histopathological data remain limited, neurodegenerative pathologies may preferentially involve auditory association cortex and cortico-cortical projections rather than primary sensory cortex , thereby striking the integrative mechanisms that are most critical for auditory object analysis.
Two additional, related guiding principles of auditory system operation that are critical for adaptive functioning in complex, dynamic auditory environments are functional plasticity and reciprocity. Reciprocity is mediated by recursive, afferent-efferent feedback that supports auditory change detection and top-down tracking of behaviourally relevant sound sources , as well as predictive decoding and filling-in of ambiguous and varying auditory inputs, such as degraded speech . Plasticity enables dynamic neural adaptation to auditory experience.
Making Communication As Clear As Possible
There are some general approaches that people can take to communicate more effectively with people with hearing loss all of which are applicable to communicating with a person with dementia.
Here are some of the top communication tips that Action on Hearing Loss suggest:
- Find a suitable place to talk, with good lighting and away from noise and distractions.
- Make sure you have face-to-face contact with the person you are talking to.
- Get the listeners attention before you start speaking, maybe by waving or tapping them on the arm.
- Even if someone is wearing hearing aids it doesnt mean they can hear you perfectly. Ask if they need to lipread.
- Speak clearly but not too slowly, and dont exaggerate your lip movements this can make it harder to lipread.
- Use natural facial expressions and gestures.
- Dont shout. It can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users and it looks aggressive.
- If someone doesnt understand what youve said, dont keep repeating it. Try saying it in a different way instead.
- Check that the person youre talking to is following you during the conversation. Use plain language and dont waffle. Avoid jargon and unfamiliar abbreviations.
- To make it easy to lipread, dont cover your mouth with your hands or clothing.
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What Are The Best Hearing Aids For Dementia
For patients living with both dementia, hearing loss should never be ignored, as it may exacerbate dementia symptoms, increase their disorientation and make their environment less safe .
While there are no hearing products made specifically for dementia patients, there are plenty of devices out there that can still be helpful. They range from the relatively simple, such as a wearable microphone to premium hearing aids.
Hearing loss makes living with diseases like Alzheimer’s even more challenging. For people currently affected by dementia, hearing aids or other hearing devices are recommended to improve their quality of life and make communication easier.
If you are the caretaker of someone with Alzheimer’s or a similar disease that affects cognition, you are wise to investigate what hearing devices might work best. A hearing care provider will be your ally in this journey, as they’ll know the latest products that may work for your loved one. You’ll also be able to discuss your loved one’s specific needs, habits and abilities with the hearing care specialist.
For example, hearing aids may not always be the best solution. Most premium hearing aids are designed to be discreet, so they may be too small and too easy to lose for a patient with dementia, especially if they have dexterity problems. Hearing aids also require that a person remember to keep the batteries fresh and the device clean and in good working condition. Instead, assistive listening devices may work better.