September is World Alzheimer’s Month

September is World Alzheimer’s Month

In Dementia & Alzheimer's by Dr. Chris Lawson

Dr. Chris Lawson

Chris Lawson’s credentials include a Doctorate in Clinical Audiology (Au.D.) from the University of Maryland in College Park, and a B.S. in Communication Disorders from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. His graduate clinical training included rotations at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), public schools, and private practice settings.
Dr. Chris Lawson

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Alzheimer’s disease is a brain condition that impacts areas which control thought, memory, emotion, and language. Globally, two out of three people believe there is little to no understanding of dementia in their countries. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are projected to impact 152 million people world-wide by 2050. Each year there is an international effort to raise world-wide awareness of Alzheimer’s, including the most common form which is dementia.

Why do we think this is important at Evergreen Audiology Clinic?

Because study after study link untreated hearing loss with early on-set dementia. Call us at Evergreen Audiology today for an evaluation — we treat you like family here and we want you to discover better hearing and stay connected with your family and the world around you.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Aging

In addition to untreated hearing loss, there are other factors that may put you more at risk for getting Alzheimer’s. They include rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and obesity. Each of these factors increases your risk of getting dementia three to six times more than someone who doesn’t suffer from those conditions.

Early indicators of Alzheimer’s are a little more serious than occasionally forgetting where you put your keys. They do include memory loss, but also difficulty finding the right words, problems understanding what people are saying, not being able to perform what were previously routine tasks as well as personality and mood changes.

Some other early warning indicators are: getting lost in familiar places, trouble handling cash and paying bills, repeating the same questions over and over in a very short time, placing items in odd places and confusion over time and events. Personality changes that occur include paranoia and distrust of family members as well as caregivers.

As Alzheimer’s progresses, the ability to function in any sort of environment decreases. If you have a loved one experiencing any of these issues, having these issues, make sure it is not due to untreated hearing loss!

Cognition and Untreated Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a fact of life for 48 million Americans and as you get older, the chances of experiencing hearing loss increase. Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins University, did several studies involving cognitive decline and hearing loss. The studies reinforce the theory that aggressively treating hearing loss can stave off cognitive decline and dementia.

In other words, it is important to get immediate treatment if you or those around you notice you are experiencing hearing loss. Too often adults wait — sometimes up to seven years — before hearing loss is treated. Studies show there is already some cognitive decline issues, but some function can return. Waiting longer means less likelihood of function return as well as more likely you may experience early on-set dementia.

The Brain and Alzheimer’s Disease

Social interaction, using your brain to solve the traffic issues driving home, or figuring out a recipe, or even deciding which way you are going to go hiking – all of these actions keep your brain sharp. Playing word games, doing the crossword puzzle, reading all help keep your brain sharp. Hearing loss happens in the brain, so if it is left untreated, the parts of your brain that process and analyze sound will suffer from disuse.

Untreated hearing loss can lead to certain parts of the brain “going dark.” Brain imaging studies of seniors with untreated hearing loss shows less gray matter in some parts of the brain. Researchers who studied the data concluded the brain didn’t change, but some of the brain cells that weren’t being stimulated because of sound processing, start to shrink.

If your brain is working too hard to make sense of sound in your environment, it can put stress on the brain. This is called cognitive load. If the cognitive load on your brain is concentrated on the area that is struggling to decode and process what you are hearing, other cognitive abilities are reduced and suffer.

Most people with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw from activities outside the home. It is embarrassing to not be able to hear all parts of a conversation and respond correctly. It is also embarrassing to not be able to hear the wait staff discuss the daily special at a restaurant or hear a clerk tell you how much something costs.

Those with untreated hearing loss tend to socialize less. Social interaction is one of the things that keeps your brain engaged. Cutting out this valuable piece of brain exercise reduces cognitive interaction. This can lead to depression. Lack of socialization as well as depression have long been recognized as factors that can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.

Stay Engaged by Treating Hearing Loss

Evergreen Audiology is committed to helping you maintain your connections with friends and family by walking you through the best treatment options that will work for you. Untreated hearing loss leads to physical and emotional risks. During World Alzheimer’s Month, call us today to schedule an appointment to ensure your best hearing and brain health!