Research scientists have been looking at a connection between hearing loss and the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for some time.
That will probably come as no surprise if you’ve ever studied the list of symptoms to look for in people that may be developing dementia and that of people who suffer from hearing loss.
Some of the key indicators of dementia and Alzheimer’s are:
- loss of memory
- reduced concentration
- withdrawal from social situations
Now compare those to the effects of untreated hearing loss, which include:
- avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
- reduced alertness
- impaired memory
- fatigue, tension, and stress
What’s the Connection?
These lists have some similarities, but the link between the two conditions goes even further. Researchers have been looking at the stress and hard work that the person struggling with hearing loss is putting themselves through and its cost to the brain. A Johns Hopkins study that looked at the rate of brain shrinkage in a trial group supported the idea that the brain shrinks more quickly in a person with hearing loss.
The researcher concluded that the person with the hearing loss should act quickly to improve their hearing. He had analyzed the brain differences found in the subjects’ MRIs and felt the structural changes might be caused by a lack of stimulation to the auditory center and could explain some of the brain shrinkage he found.
Some could suggest a “chicken and egg” type of relationship between what the dementia is causing in behavioral changes vs. what the hearing loss is causing. Is the hearing impaired person irritable due to confusion caused by memory loss, or not being able to hear in conversations with others?
What Can Be Done to Help?
Many of these studies mention that the effect of hearing aids and cochlear transplants should now be studied to see if they can reverse these symptoms. There could be inherent problems with that approach, however, as the trial groups are going to be older. The damage caused by waiting too long to take steps to improve hearing may make doing so now a too little, too late type of scenario to yield any positive results.
Look again at that list of changes that untreated hearing loss contributes to. Many of them are related to social situations. Everyone can use some alone time, but withdrawing socially just to avoid the stress that being with others brings to the hearing impaired is a problem that can only grow worse.
Confusion is another symptom of both these conditions that unfortunately is harder to avoid with dementia. But simply not hearing what others say can lead to looks of confusion when that person has to repeat what they said and still don’t get an appropriate response or reaction.
Many people do know that their hearing isn’t what it used to be. For some reason, usually based in vanity, they don’t want to wear a hearing aid. Advances in the technology are such that hearing aids are much less noticeable than they used to be.
Hopefully, combining the less conspicuous new devices with this new information can motivate the general public to investigate the help a hearing aid can provide. Improving the quality of life with a hearing aid seems like the perfect motivation, especially if it also may reduce the chances of suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s in the future.
Anyone suffering from any of these symptoms should take quick action. Consulting with Florida ENT specialist Dr. Joshua Light and having your hearing tested is the first step – and it could lead to a dramatic improvement in your life and the lives of those closest to you. Don’t miss out on another conversation or chance to make memories with loved ones, call today!