This November, as we anticipate the holidays, we look forward to gathering with friends and family to catch up and share our experiences from the year. If you have experienced changes in your hearing abilities, you may be concerned about how well you can communicate this holiday season.
November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, as designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. Reagan wanted to shed light on the experience of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects speech, memory and awareness. As one of the most common forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease now affects over 5 million Americans. However, it is important to note that dementia and Alzheimer’s are not natural parts of aging. At Preferred Hearing Solutions, our commitment to hearing health means that we want to bring awareness to the links between hearing loss and dementia.
Prevalence of Hearing Loss in the US
About 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. By the time Americans reach their 70s, about two-thirds of the population experience some degree of hearing loss. Unfortunately, only about 20% of people who need hearing aids get them, and many people suspect they may have a hearing loss wait three to five years before getting hearing devices.
There seems to be a general perception that hearing loss is a normal part of aging and is therefore something just needs to be accommodated. However, studies have revealed that treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids plays an important part in brain health.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia and is a condition that affects the part of the brain which controls memory, speech, thought and problem solving. As the disease progresses, an individual loses touch with the environment around them and can’t react to events, places or people. Early indicators of Alzheimer’s are often recognized by those close to an individual before the actual person realizes them.
They include memory issues, but not just simple forgetfulness. Large chunks of your memory seem to disappear. You can’t figure out why you have a remote control and what it does. You can’t use the microwave and you may remember how to turn on the stove, but not how to turn it off.
Individuals with dementia often find themselves at a location and they have no awareness of how they got there, why they are there, and how to get home. They have trouble completing simple tasks in what would be considered a short time. They may ask for directions to a place they have been hundreds of times before, and they may ask the same question repeatedly in the same conversation. People with dementia have trouble handing money and paying bills. They misplace items or put them in odd places, which could lead to suspicion that others are stealing from them. Personality changes are common for people with dementia, leading to feelings of anger, paranoia, and depression.
Hearing Loss and Cognition
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, untreated hearing loss reduces cognitive abilities and the brain needs cognitive challenges to keep functioning. Other factors may also contribute to the onset of dementia including obesity, high-blood pressure and smoking, as well as social isolation. In order to stay active, the brain requires stimuli. Processing sound in the form of conversation, music, the sounds of nature and television and radio programs all help exercise the brain. Untreated hearing loss, which reduces the amount of auditory processing your brain may receive otherwise, puts a large stress load on your brain and to cope. This could lead your brain to work harder to hear, which takes away from other processes such as encoding memories or performing simple tasks.
Hearing Aids Have a Positive Effect
Untreated hearing loss and social isolation are two major risk factors for dementia. Studies show the positive effects of hearing aids on one’s health and well-being – improving cognitive abilities and reconnecting people to their environment and their loved ones. If you believe you have a hearing loss, take the first step toward better hearing and brain health. Contact us at Preferred Hearing Centers for a consultation and hearing test today – and don’t miss a moment at your next holiday gathering.