This month, let’s take a moment to talk about Alzheimer’s disease, which affects many people directly or through someone they care about.
This is the most common type of dementia, a more general term for problems with thinking. It affects about 50 million people around the world. Alzheimer’s disease is most common in older people, but people under 65 can get the “early onset” disease.
Alzheimer’s disease causes people to lose their memories, have trouble finding the right words or understanding what other people are saying, have trouble doing things that used to be easy, and have changes in their personality and mood. As the most common disability among older adults, Alzheimer’s disease has a significant impact not only on the person who has it but also on their friends, family, loved ones, and caretakers.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
You might think that we would know a lot about such a common and severe disease as Alzheimer’s, but unfortunately, we don’t know much about how it starts, how it could be stopped, or what can be done to treat it and find a cure. Even though there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have made a lot of progress in understanding some of its associated conditions. This gives us hope that one day we will understand Alzheimer’s disease better.
One condition linked to Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia that might surprise you is hearing loss. Even though they seem very different in how a person acts in the world, they are very similar. People with hearing loss are more likely to get dementia, and people who already have dementia and hearing loss are likely to lose their mental abilities faster. One might think that there is a link between hearing and memory in the brain’s structure or chemistry, but new research suggests that the link has more to do with how people interact.
Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss may be linked.
This link between Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss might have something to do with how people talk to each other. We know that talking is an excellent way to keep your mind sharp. Language problems, like the inability to remember words or put together groups of ideas that make sense, are often an early sign of dementia.
Since talking is such an essential part of how we think, this gives us a hint about how hearing loss might affect us. When someone talks, they take in sounds and other cues from their body and put them together to make sense. But a person with hearing loss doesn’t get all the other person’s words when they talk. Instead, someone with hearing loss only hears small bits of sound and words that don’t seem to go together. Putting these sounds that don’t go together into complete thoughts can feel like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without all the pieces.
The cognitive load can become too much to handle when the mind has to work hard to figure out what sounds mean. Many researchers think that the trouble a person with hearing loss has putting together ideas can spread to other parts of their brain, including the parts affected by dementia.
Recent study suggests a connection
In a recent study, Hélène Amieva, a French public health expert, found that hearing aids significantly affect the link between hearing loss and dementia. People who wear hearing aids are just as likely to get dementia as people who don’t have any hearing loss. Remarkable! This finding shows that hearing ability and dementia are not directly linked to the brain. Instead, there is a link between listening in social situations. This discovery is a big step forward in Alzheimer’s research, but there is still much to do.
This September is World Alzheimer’s Month, so why not take the chance to find out how well you can hear? With a simple hearing test, our team can figure out how well you can hear and suggest a treatment plan, which often includes hearing aids. You might be able to stop or slow down the onset of dementia by getting and wearing hearing aids to help you understand what people are saying.