Treating Hearing Loss Important for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

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Multiple research studies have shown that hearing loss not only exacerbates the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but may also be an important risk factor.

Many symptoms of hearing loss – especially those related to difficulty in understanding and communicating - are similar to some of those found in Alzheimer’s. For example, both Alzheimer’s and hearing loss are known to affect speech and language skills. Depression is also a common feature of both conditions.

A number of studies have demonstrated a correlation between Alzheimer’s, dementia and hearing loss.

One study conducted at the University of Washington with Alzheimer’s patents who also had hearing loss, demonstrated a strong correlation between the severity of cognitive decline and the degree of hearing loss.

Another study carried out in the 1980s; found that 83 percent of the 30 patients diagnosed with senile dementia also suffered from a significant hearing loss, higher than normally expected for that age group. However, there was some promising news that came out of that research: 33 percent of those with memory and hearing loss were reclassified to a less severe category of dementia once the hearing loss was treated with hearing aids.

Hearing aids can be extremely beneficial for the Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, as they are for anyone with hearing loss. It is possible, however, that health care providers who do not routinely deal with elderly people the way audiologists or geriatricians do, may not be aware of the importance of screening these patients for hearing loss. As a matter of fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that many seniors diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s don’t undergo tests to rule out hearing loss.

So if anyone you know is suffering from memory loss, or displaying any symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, encourage them to be screened for hearing loss as well. If a hearing loss is found, assistive technology such as hearing aids can, as demonstrated above, make a big difference in improving all the essential cognitive functions.

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