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Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, get your hearing tested early

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Rex Banks

Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, get your hearing tested early
By Rex Banks
Director of Hearing Healthcare and Chief Audiologist

As we age, acquired hearing loss occurs in greater severity, that's why it's important for older adults to get their hearing tested early. By age 70-79, the prevalence of hearing loss is 66%; over 80 years of age, nine out of 10 older adults have hearing loss. Early diagnosis of hearing loss is critical to overall health.  

Many of the symptoms of dementia are similar to the symptoms for untreated hearing loss. A 2013 study at Johns Hopkins shows hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline in older adults and encourages health care professionals to discuss hearing healthcare with their patients. Author of the study, Dr. Frank Lin says only 15% of those who need a hearing aid get one, leaving much of the problem and its consequences untreated.

Late onset Alzheimer’s

Untreated hearing loss

Depression, anxiety, disorientation

Depression, anxiety, social isolation

Reduced language comprehension

Reduced speech discrimination

Impaired memory (esp. short-term)

Reduced cognitive input into memory

Inappropriate psychosocial responses

Inappropriate psychosocial responses

Denial, defensiveness, negativity

Denial, defensiveness, negativity

Distrust, suspicion of other’s motives

Distrust, paranoia, e.g. belief that others are talking about them

 

Behaviours of people with unmanaged hearing loss are often mistaken for mental health disorders, (see the comparison chart from Dr. Max Stanley Chartrand).  In one third of cases the degree of dementia is significantly over-estimated if tests are conducted without hearing aids. Unmanaged hearing loss can also lead to social isolation and depression which have consistently been found to be associated with mild cognitive impairment and cognitive decline.

Whether hearing loss is a marker of early stage dementia or is a modifiable risk factor, it is important to detect hearing loss as soon as possible. There is encouraging evidence that hearing interventions can improve the lives of even those with significant dementia.

In addition, for the hard of hearing Alzheimer’s patient, hearing aids help with interpersonal relationships, reduce communication stress and assist in providing electrical stimulation to the brain. The brain is the common denominator between audition and memory. Addressing hearing loss allows the brain to continue to be stimulated and helps the patient stay alert.  Patients with Alzheimer’s should get their hearing tested early so that the benefits of amplification are introduced as soon as possible. A CHS audiologist will know what to do and what may help best.

Early diagnosis of hearing loss can improve overall health and may impact onset of dementia. Find out more about getting your hearing tested or how a hearing aid could improve your or your loved one’s level of communication and understanding. 

Get your hearing tested
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