In 1983, Alzheimer’s Disease affected less than 2 million Americans. Today that number has risen to 5.4 million, and is expected to climb to at least 15 million by the year 2050. November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so it’s time to take a closer look at this disease, and see if there is a way to slow its devastating progress.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease might not be very noticeable at first, but it leads to rapid cognitive decline, severe memory loss, and difficulty in performing daily tasks like getting dressed or eating. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a neurological disease, or an illness that affects the brain. Lesions are formed in the brain, causing massive cell damage, and the loss of many abilities, from simple motor tasks all the way to cognitive and memory impairments. In fact, lapses in memory are one of the early warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. While you might think that being a bit forgetful is part of the natural aging process, the fact is that this is probably the first hint that something isn’t quite right.
How are Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss Linked?
For most of us, there may not be an obvious connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, but numerous studies prove otherwise. One such study out of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that seniors with hearing loss are much more likely to develop dementia than those who have normal hearing. Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist at the Johns Hopkins University, says that “a lot of people ignore hearing loss because it’s such a slow and insidious process as we age.” The study shows that ignoring your hearing health could be costing you far more than a few misunderstandings, or difficulties in communicating.
Lin is concerned, because “the general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” and this just isn’t true. His research has found that hearing is extremely important to both physical and mental health, and that those who can hear clearly actually keep their brains more active by constantly interacting with the world around them in a way those struggling to hear simply can’t. Lin found that those with severe hearing loss are 24% more likely to experience cognitive decline in areas like memory, planning, and concentration. Hearing loss seemed to be speeding up cognitive decline at an alarming rate, and those with hearing loss are three times as likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s than those with normal hearing.
Can Hearing Aids Slow Alzheimer’s Disease?
The good news is that even though Alzheimer’s is a common disease that has no cure, there are ways to slow its progress significantly, keeping your mind and cognitive abilities sharp. One of the most effective ways to slow keep your cognitive abilities sharp is by treating hearing loss. If you’ve been living with hearing loss for a while, you know that it’s easier to stay home than to go out with friends, since you can’t hear what they’re saying, and feel embarrassed when you ask them to repeat themselves, or take a guess at what they said and answer inappropriately. Your world narrows as the sounds you’re able to hear shrink, so it’s no surprise that as you use your brain less, your cognitive abilities will suffer as well. Treating your hearing loss is the best defense against cognitive decline, and will keep you sharp as a tack for years to come. With hearing aids, you’ll be able to participate fully in every area of your life, enjoying cognitively stimulating activities like dinner with friends and your granddaughter’s birthday party. Talking on the phone and watching TV will be easy, so you’ll be able to do a lot more than just the daily crossword. A simple pair of hearing aids can make all the difference in your fight against Alzheimer’s disease, and give you years of good health and an active mind.
If you’re one of the 48 million Americans who have hearing loss, National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month should be the wake-up call you need, reminding you that your hearing health is extremely important. Seeking treatment could easily be the thing that stands between you and a healthy future. Visit us at My Hearing Centers to discuss your options, and find the hearing device that’s right for you.