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How Does Dementia Affect Hearing

What About Tinnitus And Alzheimer’s

How does hearing loss affect mental sharpness?

Alzheimer’s disease is slightly more common among people who have tinnitus than people who don’t, at least one study has indicated. In that study, conducted in Taiwan, 3.1% of tinnitus patients developed Alzheimer’s over a 10-year period, compared to 2% of those who did not have tinnitus. However, scientists do not know why this relationship exists, and more research is needed.

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.

If You Need Help With Hearing Loss

If you’re noticing trouble hearing in yourself or a loved one, don’t delayprompt treatment can help you or your loved one stay engaged in the world and avoid social isolation, a common problem for people with untreated hearing loss. Hearing loss is exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. To find a hearing care professional, see our directory of consumer-reviewed hearing clinics to find a hearing specialist or audiologist near you.

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Correlation Between Hearing Loss And Dementia

So far, the exact reasoning behind hearing declination and the onset of dementia remains unclear. Some scientists speculate that the repetitive burden of decoding aural input over several years might overwhelm specific sections of the brain related to sonic deciphering, and lead to hearing loss. This kind of mental deterioration may lead patients to become more vulnerable to degenerative types of dementia.

Another theory in circulation claims that hearing loss and dementia do not have such an underlying common cause, but rather the hearing loss causes patients to become more socially isolated. Social isolation has been identified as a risk factor for developing dementia.

Symptoms Of Sight And Hearing Loss

Dont neglect your hearing health: How hearing loss can affect your ...

The symptoms of sight and hearing loss can be similar to some of the early signs of dementia.

For example, you might become confused about where you are or struggle to follow a conversation. This can make it hard to tell what is down to dementia and what is down to sight or hearing loss. This can make diagnosing dementia in someone with sight or hearing loss more difficult. It can also make diagnosing sight and hearing problems in a person with dementia more difficult as well.

Tips: communicating with someone with dementia

Get tips on how to communicate with somebody who has dementia, including what to say, how to speak, and how to listen.

Dementia and sight loss are both more common as you get older.

There are many causes of sight loss in people with dementia, including:

  • eye conditions, such as cataracts or macular degeneration
  • other health conditions, such as stroke
  • normal ageing of the eye.

These are all ways in which the visual system can be damaged, causing a person to lose vision.

However, people with dementia can also have visual difficulties because the dementia affects the parts of their brain that handle visual information coming from the eyes. This means they will have visual problems, but have healthy eyes.

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Need A Refresher On The Difference Between Correlation And Causation

Correlation means two things are merely associated with each other or have some relationship to each other. Causation means that one thing causes another. Here is an example to help clarify the difference:

On days where there are is a spike in the sale of sunscreen, there is also a spike in incidents of drowning. Does this mean buying sunscreen causes people to drown?? Probably not. Most likely, the common denominator is hot summer days. On hot summer days, more people go out to buy sunscreen and more people decide to go swimming. And the more people who swim, the higher the probability that someone will drown. Just because more people buy sunscreen on the same days that more people drown doesnt mean buying sunscreen causes drowning!

Okay so now that weve clarified the difference between correlation and causation, we can get back to talking about what you really came here to read: the relationship between hearing loss and dementia.

Basically, scientists have been able to prove that there is a correlative relationship between hearing loss and cognitive impairment. But they havent been able to prove that hearing loss causes cognitive impairment.

Symptoms Of Altered Auditory Cognition In Dementia

Though auditory dysfunction is rarely the presenting feature, histopathological involvement of auditory cortices has been described in major neurodegenerative dementias , and deficits of auditory cognition are not uncommon early features of these diseases. Certain general observations suggest an auditory cognitive disorder: the patient typically experiences greater listening difficulties and derives less benefit with conventional binaural amplification than anticipated from the degree of audiometric loss and may also exhibit various abnormal behavioural responses to sounds. Matching of incoming sound information to stored neural âtemplatesâ based on past experience of the auditory world may be a general operating principle of the auditory brain : disruption of this process with neurodegenerative pathologies may lead to deficient perception or to aberrant perception of sounds. Deficient sound perception or recognition not attributable to faulty peripheral encoding constitutes an auditory agnosia, which may be selective for particular kinds of sounds aberrant âexcessiveâ processing may manifest as auditory hallucinations. These disorders of auditory cognition commonly coexist.

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Hearing Loss & Dementia

Hearing loss and dementia are, unfortunately, connected. Because trouble communicating is an important symptom of both problems, it can be difficult to tell if someone with Alzheimers disease, or a related dementia, is losing the ability to hear. Difficulty speaking and understanding could be a sign of the brain cell damage that makes thinking so hard for someone with dementia, but it could also be a matter of simply not being able to hear.

Hearing loss can make it seem like someone is in the later stages of dementia when they are actually in the middle, or even earlier, stages. In other words, your loved ones cognitive problems may not be as bad as they appear. It can be easy to assume that difficulties are due to dementia when the problem is that its simply too hard to hear. Also, listening and communicating stimulate the brain. If its too hard to hear, someone with dementia may check out rather than work mentally to engage. Checking out makes focus and memory worse, whereas being able to hear improves the ability to concentrate and, in turn, strengthens the brain and slows the decline of focus and memory.

Testing the hearing of someone with dementia is important, and remember that audiology / hearing tests can be adapted for people with dementia .

Can Hearing Loss Be Mistaken For Dementia

How regular hearing tests can reduce risk of dementia and depression | Nine News Australia

Due to the similarity of their symptoms, hearing loss can sometimes be misdiagnosed as dementia, and vice versa. Both have similar symptoms that frequently overlap with each other. For example, a person who has difficulties with communication, speech, and processing speech can be either showing preliminary signs of dementia or simply a case of hearing impairment. Its also widely known that people with dementia can have difficulty communicating or responding to complex questions also common with hearing impairment which is why the two are often confused.

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Study Design And Population

A population-based retrospective matched cohort study was conducted. Disease diagnosis followed the regulations of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification . ICD-9-CM code 388.2 was used to define SSHL. Medical records that matched with these codes were obtained from the NHIRD between 2000 and 2009 for further analysis. Patients diagnosed with SSHL between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2009, for > 1year who had attended 2 outpatient visits or received any inpatient diagnosis were included as the SSHL group. Patients diagnosed before 2000, aged < 20years, or diagnosed with dementia before SSHL were excluded. A total of 3731 newly diagnosed patients with SSHL were included, and through propensity score matching at a 1:3 ratio according to age, sex, index year, comorbidities, and medications , the comparison group was constructed. For patients without SSHL or dementia, the index date was designated as 365days after the diagnosis date. At last, 3725 patients with SSHL and 11,175 without SSHL were selected. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital -20,160,028). All methods were carried out in accordance with relevant guidelines and regulations. Because the patient identifiers were scrambled to the public for research purposes to protect confidentiality, the requirement for written or verbal consent from patients for data linkage study was waived.

Fig. 1

The Link Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimers

Adults with hearing loss have a higher risk for Alzheimers and other cognitive disorders

The risk of dementia increases for those with a hearing loss greater than 25 dB.

36 %

of the risk of dementia was associated with hearing loss for study participants over the age of

60 years

Individuals with moderate to severe hearing loss are up to 5 times as likely to develop dementia.

According to several major studies, older adults with hearing lossespecially men are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, compared to those with normal hearing. Men with hearing loss were 69 percent more likely to develop dementia than those with no hearing impairment.

The risk escalates as a person’s hearing loss worsens. 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.

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What Can You Do

If you want try to lower your chances of hearing loss as you age, try to keep your heart healthy, protect your hearing from loud noises, and dont smoke.

Smoking is a big risk factor for sensory loss — vision and hearing, says Heather Whitson, MD, at Duke Health.

Even when they take precautions, some people are simply more likely to get hearing loss in older age. In those cases, can using hearing aids protect you from dementia?

Thats the billion-dollar question, Lin says.

Lin is leading a 5-year clinical trial studying 850 people to see if hearing aids can cut dementia.

Even without the proof, Lin says theres no downside to using hearing aids. In fact, theres often a big upside to getting help for your hearing loss.

With a very simple intervention, we could make a big difference improving quality of life, Lin said.

In a pilot study, people with dementia started wearing inexpensive, over-the-counter devices to boost their hearing. A month later, their caregivers reported improved communication, more laughter, and more storytelling.

If youre an older adult with hearing loss, it would make sense to treat that hearing loss, says Richard Gurgel, MD, of the University of Utah.

If you think your hearing has gotten worse with age, Gurgel recommends a hearing screening. The relatively quick, painless test can help you notice how your hearing changes as you get older and if a hearing aid would help you.


Find A Hearing Care Partner

Dementia and Your Hearing

Keep your edge well into old age. Catch and treat hearing loss early to slow or stop its progression.

Instead of wondering about how a potential hearing loss might affect you, find out where you or a loved one stands. Get a free comprehensive hearing screening from one of our hearing care professionals.

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What Research On Dementia And Hearing Loss Reveals

Most recently, a study published in July 2021 found that people who struggle to hear speech in noise were more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing, as measured over an 11-year period. This was the first time that speech in noise was specifically studied. However, the study wasn’t capable of determining if untreated hearing loss caused the dementia, only that they’re linked.

In a different study, a team at Johns Hopkins looked at cognitive impairment scores over six years for nearly 2,000 seniors. They concluded that those with hearing loss had a faster decline. The volunteers were all cognitively normal when the research began. But by the studys end, people with hearing loss were 24 percent more likely to meet the standard of cognitive impairment compared to people with normal hearing.

Another approach is to ask people whether theyve noticed a change. Measures of subjective decline can pick up losses before theyll show up on a test. A large studyusing data drawn from more than 10,000 men age 62 and upran over eight years. It found that the greater their hearing loss, the more likely men were to express concerns about their memory or thinking over time. With even a mild hearing loss, their chance of reporting cognitive decline was 30 percent higher than among those who did not report any hearing loss. With moderate or severe hearing loss, the risk was 42 and 52 percent higher.

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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.

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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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Solutions For Helping Persons With Dementia To Hear Better

The Correlation Between Dementia and Hearing Loss – Shermin Lim of Demant Singapore

If your loved one is having difficulty hearing, as well as the cognitive problems associated with Alzheimers or another dementia, communication can seem daunting. There are, however, several steps you can take to help improve communication and keep these issues as manageable as possible.

Caregiver Tips

Regular Hearing ChecksHearing tests are common and necessary for all older people, even those without dementia, but some audiology departments have people who specialize in testing people with dementia. Ask your doctor how to find them. While there are free online hearing tests, these are largely designed as hearing aid marketing tools and are not intended or designed for persons with dementia.

Wax OffEar wax can be a problem for older adults, and is often ignored until it obstructs hearing or causes pain and even sickness. Once-a-year cleanings should be good enough. If buildup occurs a doctor can use irrigation or suction to clean the ear canal. Bone growth within the ear canal can further contribute to sound obstruction and further the buildup of wax.

Quiet the RoomReduce background noise and distractions. Common noise makers that may affect your loved ones ability to hear include fans, phones, and loud appliances. Turn them down, especially when youre trying to talk.

Lighten UpKeep rooms well-lit. This will make it easier to understand sounds.

Express YourselfWhen speaking to your loved one, use gestures and be expressive. Speak face-to-face, from relatively close.

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