We’ve just finished Halloween and now we are looking forward to those family holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. In the midst of these festivities, we get together with our friends and family to catch up and re-live old times – and you don’t want to miss a minute! This holiday season, it’s important to make sure that your ability to communicate is at its best!
Here at Desert Valley Audiology, we are committed to ensuring your best hearing health – and one big part of hearing loss is understanding how it affects other areas of your life. To this end, we want to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s disease this month. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan established November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month to shed light on this condition.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Research has linked untreated hearing loss as one of the core causes of the onset of dementia. More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, making up 60% to 80% of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. While there is no cure, there are treatments that can slow down the progression.
Risk Factors for Dementia
There are nine major risk factors associated with the increased risk of dementia. They include: lack of education, midlife high blood pressure, obesity, depression, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking, social isolation and hearing loss. Additionally, women with age-related hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia.
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to dementia due to issues with social isolation and an increased cognitive load. When you have difficulty hearing, you struggle to put together pieces of what you hear into a coherent message you can respond to. You strain to understand, which becomes frustrating and places a lot of stress on your brain. As a result, untreated hearing loss could put a heavier cognitive load on the brain, using resources from other processes. Brain imaging performed on seniors with hearing loss shows the presence of areas that aren’t being used. Thankfully, the brain is a resilient organ and these gray areas lessen when hearing aids are put into use.
Social isolation, a common consequence of untreated hearing loss, plays a part in the onset of dementia. Untreated hearing loss hinders your ability to communicate. With untreated hearing loss, speech recognition becomes difficult and people may begin to withdraw from social settings due to challenges with communication. Social isolation is often cited as a contributing factor to developing dementia.
Early Signs of Dementia
Because it is often linked to the natural process of aging, the signs of dementia may be difficult to identify at first. Here are a few signs to watch out for:
- Memory loss: Not the “where did I put my keys down?” kind of memory loss, but rather, the forgetting things you’ve learned, as well as dates, events, how things work, and asking for the same information repeatedly without realizing it.
- Trouble planning or solving problems: You may notice a loved one takes longer to complete routine tasks like folding the laundry and putting it away, or baking cookies.
- Confusion concerning time or place: People with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often lose track of time, and forget where they are and how they got there.
- Misplacing objects and being unable to retrace steps to find them: Normally, when you misplace something, you think “OK, I was here, then went there and then stopped for that,” and you can retrace your route to look for the object. People with Alzheimer’s disease are unable to retrace their steps because they struggle to remember where they’ve been. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to accusations that others are stealing their possessions.
- Mood and personality changes: People with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may become confused, depressed, and suspicious of what others say and do.
Benefits of Using Hearing Aids
With the understanding that there is a link between untreated hearing loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, it is important to ensure that you are hearing at your best. At Desert Valley Audiology, we offer comprehensive hearing evaluations and hearing services to treat hearing loss. The most common prescription for hearing loss is the use of hearing aids.
Researchers found that treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids could mitigate the risk of developing dementia by keeping people connected to their social socials and reducing cognitive decline. Hearing aid users who reported mental and physical health issues prior to getting hearing devices say they experience an increased quality of life with hearing aids. They are less depressed, better communicators, more socially active, have better sleep patterns and, in general, a more positive attitude.
Visit Us at Desert Valley Audiology
Given that hearing loss is a risk factor for cognitive decline or dementia and that untreated hearing loss depletes your quality of life, why not schedule a hearing test with us this November? Hearing tests are painless and our team at Desert Valley Audiology will get you started on the path to better hearing!