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September marks World Alzheimer’s Month. Launched in 2012, this global campaign focuses on raising awareness about dementia which impacts 50 million people worldwide. Dementia encompasses a range of medical conditions that deteriorate cognitive capacities like decision making, memory, thinking, and learning. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s which makes up up to 90% of the dementia that people navigate today. You can participate in World Alzheimer’s Month by scheduling an appointment for a hearing test! Treating hearing loss can reduce the risk of experiencing cognitive decline and developing conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological condition that reduces cognitive functions over time. It typically starts with mild memory loss and progresses to more severe memory loss, difficulties making decisions, engaging in conversation, and living daily life independently. This can deeply impact a person’s personality and behavior, leading to significant changes that are challenging to navigate. The number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to significantly increase over the next few decades. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6.2 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s. This is projected to grow exponentially, reaching 12.7 million by 2050.
Though the specific causes of Alzheimer’s are still being researched, experts suggest that its development likely results from several factors that include age, environment, diet, and genetics. Research also shows that the brain can experience changes before the onset of Alzheimer’s. This highlights that there is a window of opportunity to possibly delay or prevent the progression of cognitive decline. This is especially important because Alzheimer’s is an irreversible condition that permanently affects cognitive function. So identifying risk factors is a critical way to protect brain health. Extensive research shows that treating hearing loss can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Hearing Loss & Alzheimer’s
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition that older adults experience. Impacting an estimated 48 million people, hearing loss reduces ability to detect and process sound. This produces a range of symptoms that strain communication which can affect daily life in significant ways. It can also impact the brain and contribute to a decline in cognitive function(s). Substantial research establishes a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline, highlighting that imapired hearing increases the risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s. This includes a 2019 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia that was conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The 8-year study included over 10,000 participants who were 62 years old and older. Key research findings included that cognitive decline was:
- 30% higher among people with mild hearing loss
- 42% higher among people with moderate hearing loss
- 54% higher among people with severe hearing loss
These findings reveal that hearing loss can impact the brain in ways that drastically increase the risk of decline.
Hearing Aids Can Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These are technologically savvy electronic devices that absorb and process sound. Providing significant support, hearing aids alleviate symptoms that strain communication. This not only makes it easier to hear and understand speech (and sound), but offers countless benefits including improving relationships, enriching social life, and overall health outcomes.
Research shows that hearing aids can also strengthen cognitive functions. This includes a 2020 study published in Science Daily where a research team at the University of Melbourne investigated how hearing aids impact the brain by examining the hearing and cognitive capacities of nearly 100 participants before and after using hearing aids. A key finding from this research is: “97% of participants showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function (mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks)”.
World Alzheimer’s Month is a great opportunity to take action that benefits your health! You can prioritize your hearing health by taking the first simple step which is scheduling an appointment for a hearing test with us. Our hearing tests involve a painless process that measures your hearing ability in both ears. This identifies any impairment and establishes your hearing needs. Treating hearing loss offers countless benefits that can transform your health and quality of life. We look forward to helping you on your journey to better hearing!