As the weather cools and children across the country go back to school, it’s time to focus on a poorly understood, but devastating public health problem. This month is World Alzheimer’s Month and the voluntary health organization Alzheimer’s Disease International is working to increase awareness of the condition worldwide. They are looking to encourage those with the condition to seek help, as well as reduce the stigma surrounding it.
Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia?
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common type of dementia, which impacts the memory, reasoning, behavior and emotion of the individual affected. Dementia is more prevalent than you might believe, and it is one of the main causes of death among older Americans along with cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
The development of certain cells called plaque and tangles interfere with the ordinary function of the brain and affect neural pathways as the disease advances. Brain cells find themselves unable to communicate, and eventually die as a result. Scans indicate that brains suffering from Alzheimer’s disease shrink at a faster rate than healthy brains.
Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
Here are some of the most common behaviors that those with Alzheimer’s might exhibit:
Memory Loss: People with Alzheimer’s disease forget things that have happened recently and miss appointments often. They may begin to forget pieces of information they have remembered for a long time, such as a phone number or a credit card pin code. As the disease develops, they may even get confused about where they are and how they got there. This extends far beyond ordinary forgetfulness and can have a severe effect on both the sufferer and their family members.
Language problems: Sufferers have difficulty expressing themselves using the words that they want to. They might find it hard to understand the words of other people, which makes it tough to communicate with them. Personality and mood shifts go hand in hand with dementia, and families often feel that their beloved has altered totally as the illness advances.
Trouble performing routine tasks: As the disease develops, they may find it hard to complete tasks they may have already mastered through years of repetition, such as driving a car, taking a shower or getting dressed. Since brain cells are unable to communicate, such easy tasks become difficult and those with Alzheimer’s often have to move to a nursing home or to a support center for assistance.
Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease
Many studies have associated hearing loss with Alzheimer’s disease. While we often disregard hearing loss as a standard aspect of aging, it is far more probable that people with hearing loss will develop dementia than those with normal hearing.
Someone with hearing loss is more likely to have dementia because of an increased ‘cognitive load’. This means that the brain works so hard to interpret the poor sound signals it receives. This leaves fewer resources for cognitive work such as concentration or memory, and boosts the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefits of treating hearing loss
Although research is still ongoing on the preventive impact of hearing aids on the onset of Alzheimer’s, the latest studies reveal beneficial effects from the use of hearing aids, even if the person is already suffering from dementia.
In a new study this year, for instance, individuals with an hearing device are able to maintain better brain function over time than individuals with age-related hearing problems. These results provide an early proof that encouraging individuals to wear hearing aids may help safeguard their brains and decrease their risk of dementia. The study was conducted at the University of Exeter and King’s College London, UK.
Dr. Anne Corbett, lead researcher on the study, announced: “Previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory and an increased risk of dementia. Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid, and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain.”
Hearing aids don’t just potentially help with Alzheimer’s disease; they are also great for reconnecting with your loved ones and have been linked with a reduction in accidental falls! The latest models also include technologies such as Bluetooth and lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.
The professional team at Dr. Hear can help you choose the right one for you. But before we can find a model which works for you, we need to know about your hearing needs. Contact us today for a hearing test.