Hearing and Alzheimer's

If you are worried about memory loss, don’t leave until you have read this article.  Hearing Loss not only exacerbates the symptoms of Alzheimer's and Dementia, but may also be an imporant risk factor.  This article lists four reasons that maintaining healthy hearing is vital for maintaining a healthy mind.

(1) There is an Apparent Correlation between Hearing Loss and both Alzheimer's and Dementia

A study in 1986Weinstein, BE, Amsel, L (1986). Hearing loss and senile dementia in the institutionalized elderly. Clinical Gerontologist, 4: 3-15. showed that 83% of the 30 of the patients diagnosed with senile dementia also had a significant hearing loss (which is a significantly higher percentage than is expected for that age group).  Of those with the dementia and hearing loss, 33% were reclassified to a less severe category of dementia once the hearing correction was used.  More information on this study and others can be found by visiting http://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/article_detail.asp?article_id=1503.

A similar study done at the University of WashingtonUhlmann, RF, Larson, EB, Rees, TS, Koepsell, TD, Duckert, LG (l989). Relationship of hearing impairment to dementia and cognitive dysfunction in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 261(13): 1916-9. with Alzheimer’s patents who also had hearing loss found a strong correlation between the severity of cognitive decline and the degree of hearing loss.

(2) Hearing Loss Leads to Depression, which is a Risk Factor for Alzheimer's

Hearing loss has been shown to lead to social isolation and depression. Depression has been found to be a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

The National Council of Aging published a studyhttp://www.ncoa.org/content.cfm?sectionID=105&detail=46 that finds that untreated hearing loss is linked to not only depression, but also anxiety and social isolation. The study surveyed 2,300 hearing impaired adults and also 2,090 family members and friends. The study also found that among those who then corrected their hearing loss there were significant improvements in every dimension measured (relations at home, feeling about self, mental health, social life, etc.)

Dutch researchershttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7334298.stm found that depression is a significant risk factor associated with Alzheimer’s. The study of 486 people over six years has led researchers to conclude that Alzheimer’s was 2.5 times more likely in people with a history of depression.

A study over the past 13 years of over 900 Catholic clergy (nuns, priests, and brothers)http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/103908.php has found that those that had depression prior to exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Another significant finding is that there was not a significant change in the depressive symptoms once Alzheimer’s was diagnosed.

(3) Hearing Accounts for a Significant Portion of Brain Activity

A significant portion of the brain is utilized in processing the auditory information received from the inner ear (Cochlea). Some people do crossword puzzles to stimulate the mind. But that is not the only way. Input from hearing stimulates our brains to process and comprehend the world around us.

The primary auditory cortexhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_auditory_cortex, in the temporal lobe of the brain, is responsible for processing the sound information and passing it on to the Wernicke’s area of the parietal lobe. The Wernicke’s area is responsible for using the auditory information to understand spoken languagehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernicke's_area. Just conversing with someone exercises significant and vital sections of the brain.

(4) Hearing Loss can Exacerbate the Symptoms of Alzheimer's and Dementia

Even if you already have symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, correcting for hearing loss has been shown to lesson the adverse effects of memory loss.

A study of 35 patientsAllen, NH, Burns, A, Newton, V, Hickson, F, Ramsden, R, Rogers, J, Butler, S, Thistlewaite, G, Morris, J (2003). The effects of improving hearing in dementia. Age and Ageing, 32(2): 189-93. with Primary Dementia and untreated hearing loss was performed in which the patients were tested and fitted with hearing aids. The testing process, hearing aid adoption, and behavior results were studied. The findings indicate that patients with Dementia can successfully be tested and treated for hearing loss without increasing the burden to the care-giver. Of the patients, 42% “showed an improvement on an independently rated measure of change.”

Many symptoms of hearing loss are similar to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and result in difficulties in communication. Often hearing loss can go undetected because of Alzheimer’s symptoms. A study in 1999Palmer, CV, Adams, SW Bourgeois, M, Durrant, J, Rossi, M (l999). Reductions in care-giver identified problem behaviors in patients with Alzheimer’s disease post-hearing-aid fitting. Journal of Speech Language Hearing Research, 42(2): 312-328. showed that testing and correction for hearing loss in patients who had Alzheimer’s could be done effectively. The study also showed that there was a significant reduction in communication problems and related problem behaviors.

Test your Hearing Today!

If you or someone close to you is concerned about Memory Loss, please have your hearing tested.  If you would like to take an online hearing test right now, click here.  If you would like to visit a professional for a full hearing examination click here.


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