November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month

It’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, So Let’s Talk About Hearing Loss and Brain Health

In Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Family and Relationships by Ed Kocher, ACA, BC-HIS

Ed Kocher, ACA, BC-HIS

It’s a festive time of year, and you might be busy planning your Thanksgiving menu or getting ready to send out Christmas cards. But November is about something else too: it’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is rapidly growing. Currently, there are approximately 5.7 million American adults living with this disease, but this number is expected to rise to almost 14 million by 2050. That’s why it’s so important that we take the time to educate ourselves about Alzheimer’s, and what we can do to minimize our risk.

Although there are some risk factors that are out of our control such as age, genetics, and family history, there are others which we can minimize by leading a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to a number of recent studies, doctors and researchers now know that along with exercising and eating a heart-healthy diet, treating hearing loss is an important way of staving off cognitive decline.

When hearing loss interferes with our ability to communicate, it can cause us to become isolated from others. This isolation has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s substantially. Scientists have also theorized that untreated hearing loss results in changes in the brain that can diminish our cognitive health.

The holidays are a special opportunity to reconnect with family near and far. But if your hearing loss is making it hard for you to understand others, you might not be looking forward to the family gatherings. The good news is that hearing aids can aid communication and bring the enjoyment back into social occasions. And just as importantly, treating hearing loss is proven way of keeping our brains healthier as we age.

The hearing loss–brain health connection

Age-related hearing loss is an extremely prevalent condition affecting older Americans, with 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older experiencing hearing difficulties. Although hearing aids have been shown to greatly reduce listening effort and improve quality of life, fewer than 1 in 3 older Americans who could benefit from these useful devices wear them regularly.

Hearing and communication are closely connected to brain health, and scientists are learning more about how the loss of hearing can have a negative effect on brain function if it goes untreated. In many cases untreated hearing loss leads to social isolation, which can seriously increase a person’s risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has been examining the connection between hearing loss and dementia since for years. He and his team set out to establish whether or not untreated hearing loss leads to diminished cognitive function.

In 2011, he and his team tracked the cognitive health of 639 participants who were mentally sharp at the outset. The researchers tested the participants mental abilities regularly, most for about 12 years and some for 18 years. A strong correlation was found between the severity of each person’s initial hearing loss and their risk of diminished cognitive function. Even those with only moderate hearing loss had a three-times greater chance of developing dementia.

A few benefits of hearing aids 

  1. Hearing aids have been shown to mitigate the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in people who are hard of hearing. In an extensive French study led by Isabelle Mosnier of Assistance Publique-Hopitaux in Paris, researchers discovered that patients with hearing loss who wore hearing aids had an equal chance of developing dementia as those with normal hearing.
  2. Hearing aids have a positive effect on relationships. When the pathways of communication are open, relationships can thrive. But the opposite is also true. Studies show that untreated hearing loss often drives a wedge between spouses and family members by causing resentment and frustration to grow. Hearing aids make it possible to once again enjoy shared activities, tell stories, commiserate, laugh, and take part in the daily small communications that relationships are based on.
  3. Hearing aids increase overall happiness and well-being. Multiple studies have shown the connection between hearing aids and increased happiness, as well as untreated hearing loss and depression. This could be due to the fact that hearing aids make it much easier to engage with others, and socialization makes for a happy brain, while loneliness has the opposite effect.

Contact Advanced Tech Hearing Aid Centers for a hearing aid test drive

Considering all of the proven benefits of hearing aids, aren’t they worth a try? At Advanced Tech Hearing Aid Centers, you’ll have expert guidance every step of the way, from your initial consultation to your comprehensive hearing exam and hearing aid fitting. We’re committed to helping you find the very best hearing solution for your needs, and even offer a hearing aid test drive to make sure you find the perfect match. Contact us to start your journey to better hearing today!