Contributed by Mandy Mroz, AuD, director, Healthy Hearing
November 7, 2018
In patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, the brain is attacked and everyday functions become impossible or extremely difficult. According to the Alzheimer's Association, a startling 5.7 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer's and other dementia diseases, costing the nation about $277 billion in 2018. Despite awareness and research into this troublesome and life-robbing disease, every 65 seconds someone in the U.S. develops the disease. Alzheimer's disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in our country.
If you know someone with Alzheimer's disease, it's vital to do all you can to help them live the most vibrant and full life. If you don't know anyone with this devastating disease yet, it's still important to be aware of early warning signs of cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease and other dementia. The Alzheimer's Association outlines ten main warning signs and symptoms of the disease.
What is the connection between untreated hearing loss and Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's disease and untreated hearing loss can be intricately connected — one of the hallmarks of the disease is the decreased ability to communicate. One recent study has even linked hearing loss to an increase in dementia, naming it as a key risk factor.
Many times, Alzheimer's patients in the later stages of the disease experience a decrease in cognitive function, often not responding to others or to stimuli in the environment we would expect them to notice. Conversations go on without them, questions are asked but remain unanswered. When Alzheimer's disease and hearing loss coexist, the situation is more complicated. Hearing loss can challenge the patient's ability to interact with the world around them, much like the dementia symptoms. Unless they are aware of the hearing loss and facilitate getting treatment, caregivers will find it difficult — if not impossible — to communicate with these patients.
Treating Hearing Loss Can Improve Quality of Life for Alzheimer's Patients
Diagnosing hearing loss in someone suffering from Alzheimer's can be a huge relief for the patient, their family and caregivers. Some of the problems that were once blamed on the dementia progression can now be attributed to the hearing loss, and hearing loss has a variety of treatment options that may improve communication. Hearing aids, assistive listening devices, alerting devicesand other communication strategies can be employed to help the Alzheimer's patient engage with their loved ones and caregivers.
Research from the Better Hearing Institute demonstrates the use of hearing aids improves quality of life for individuals, including emotional health, mental ability, physical health and a sense of independence.
Take Action to Help Your Loved Ones Suffering from Dementia
The holidays bring about many family gatherings and social events. If you notice one of your loved ones seems to be exhibiting any of the signs of Alzheimer's or hearing loss, take action. Early detection is the first step to maintaining quality of life. When it comes to hearing loss, there are treatment options for every need and budget. Hearing aids can make an enormous difference in the lives of those living with hearing loss. It is even more important to diagnose hearing loss for someone also suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
About the Author
Dr. Mandy Mroz earned her doctorate in audiology from the University of Florida. Mandy’s career is guided by her dedication to serving people with hearing loss and her past experience in hearing research, training and management.