September is World Alzheimer’s Month

September is World Alzheimer’s Month
Carli Van Harken

World Alzheimer’s Month is part of an international campaign to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. A recent survey showed that globally, two out of three people believe there is little to no understanding of dementia in their countries. Yet the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are widespread and projected to impact 152 million people world-wide by 2050.

Why are you reading this on our Comprehensive Ear and Hearing blog? Study after study has linked untreated hearing loss with early on-set dementia. That’s a great reason to call us today and schedule a hearing evaluation. We are here to help you stay connected to your family and social network and those connections can help keep you emotionally as well as physically fit!

Alzheimer’s and Aging

In addition to untreated hearing loss, there are other factors as you get older that put you at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some of those factors include rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and obesity. Each of these factors puts your risk of getting dementia three to six times higher than someone who doesn’t have these conditions.

Many people lump forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s together. Early indicators of Alzheimer’s are a more serious than forgetting an appointment or where you put your keys. Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease include: memory loss, difficulty finding the right words, problems understanding what people are saying, not being able to perform what were previously routine tasks, and personality and mood changes.

Other early indicators are: 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 progresses, the ability to function in any sort of environment is gone. It robs an individual of their identity and their dignity without regard to social, economic or geographic boundaries.

Untreated Hearing Loss and Cognitive Issues

As you get older, the chances of experiencing hearing loss increase. Right now, hearing loss is a fact of life for 48 million Americans. Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins University, was the co-author of a number of studies involving cognitive decline and hearing loss. They add credence to the theory that treating hearing loss immediately when it is discovered, can help fend off early cognitive decline and dementia. Too often adults wait – sometimes up to seven years – before they seek treatment for hearing loss – even if it has been diagnosed!

The Brain and Alzheimer’s Disease

Staying socially connected, utilizing your brain outside the home for driving, shopping, or hiking are all great brain exercises. At home, baking and following a recipe, building models, doing the crossword puzzle, and reading all help you stay sharp.

Letting your hearing loss go untreated means your brain has to struggle with decoding sounds and conversations over and over again.  It puts what scientists call a “cognitive load” on certain areas of the brain and not others. Brain imaging studies of seniors with untreated hearing loss shows less gray matter functioning in some parts of the brain. The conclusion by those who studied the data was the brain didn’t change, but certain brain cells stopped working due to lack of stimulation had they started to shrink.

Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

People with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from activities outside the home. It is exhausting to hear parts of a conversation and try to think how to respond. It is embarrassing keep asking servers at a restaurant to repeat themselves. This cuts out a valuable piece of social interaction that keeps your cognitive abilities sharp and it leads to depression. Lack of socialization and depression are factors that can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.

Comprehensive Ear and Hearing

Luckily, studies show having hearing aids and using them can help re-activate some brain cells that start to go dark due to lack of use. Using hearing aids have been shown to improve both physical and emotional well being of those with hearing loss. There are dozens of models that have all sorts of technology, and at Comprehensive Ear and Hearing, our team is ready to help you navigate your way to better hearing. Call us for an evaluation today.