The Connection Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss

January 10, 2013

By Tom Regev

It is a well known fact that hearing loss is one of the most common disabilities among the elderly. Surprisingly enough, over 80% of those suffering from it do not take proper practical steps to treat it.
Whether it is a conscious decision or whether it is simply because of unawareness, it is important to understand that untreated hearing loss may be related to more severe conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Hearing Loss Among the Elderly

What makes hearing loss sometimes difficult to acknowledge it the fact that it is a gradual process. People that suffer from it may become socially isolated and find it difficult to take joy from some of the simpler pleasures of life, such as listening to music and enjoying a relaxed conversation with some friends. It is well known that untreated hearing loss may lead to depression and may even increase chances of death from heart disease. 

Many people refuse to acknowledge their condition because of psychological reasons and that is why it is extremely important to openly discuss hearing impairments among the elderly and point out the fact that is is a very common condition and nothing to be ashamed of.

If you are over 60, it is highly recommended that you visit an audiology expert once a year. If necessary, proper hearing aids can not only improve your condition, but also assist with diminishing the chances of  suffering from other conditions that have been found to be related.

Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease

Elderly people that suffer from hearing impairments are more likely to suffer from other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This is also related to the severity of the hearing condition; people with severe conditions are at a much higher level of risk.
If at first glance the conditions may seem non-related, examining brain functions demonstrates the common pathology.

The brain of people with a hearing disability has to struggle with an ongoing and continuous effort to decipher the sounds coming from the outside world. The brain dedicates many resources to decipher unclear and garbled messages. This continuous effort may come at the expense of other functions. In other words, if the brain needs to struggle with deciphering sounds, this continuous effort may mean that other healthy functions are neglected. This in turn increases vulnerability to conditions of dementia.

Some of the most common Alzheimer symptoms, such as fatigue and stress, may be much worsened by hearing loss. This means that even when not directly related, hearing impairments may worsen dementia and Alzheimer symptoms. Using proper hearing aids can definitely assist in improving such symptoms.

Developing a Better Awareness 

There is no doubt that a better awareness and regular checkups at an audiology center can and will help. When necessary, using proper hearing aids will not only improve your quality of life, it will help you in avoiding unwanted side effects such as depression and social isolation and decrease chances of suffering from severe ailments such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.

This Article is presented as a service to the public by the Hearing Aids Group

Works Referenced

 

Agnvall, Elizabeth. "Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia, Alzheimer's Disease Risk." AARP - Health. AARP, 14 Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Cacace, Anthony T. "Aging, Alzheimer's Disease, and Hearing Impairment: Highlighting Relevant Issues and Calling for Additional Research -- Cacace 16 (1): 2 -- American Journal of Audiology." Aging, Alzheimer's Disease, and Hearing Impairment: Highlighting Relevant Issues and Calling for Additional Research. American Journal of Audiology, 03 June 2007. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Garcia, Malcolm. "Hearing Aids Can Help Dementia Patients - Chicagotribune.com." Chicago Tribune: Chicago Breaking News, Sports, Business, Entertainment, Weather and Traffic - Chicagotribune.com. N.p., 21 Sept. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Kraft, Sy. "Study: Alzheimer's, Dementia Associated With Hearing Loss." Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.