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Published on: March 7, 2012
by Rock River Times
According to a study published in the Archives of Neurology, older adults with hearing loss appear more likely to develop dementia, and their risk increases as hearing loss becomes more severe. The researchers found the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease specifically increased with hearing loss. For every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the extra risk of developing Alzheimer’s increased by 20 percent.
“There is strong evidence that hearing impairment contributes to the progression of cognitive dysfunction in older adults,” said Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., executive director of the Better Hearing Institute. “Unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language and sound, exhaust cognitive reserve, and lead to social isolation — regardless of other coexisting conditions.”
Donald R. Kleindl II, BC-HIS, ACA, MCAP, director of Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics, added, “When an individual has both Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, many of the symptoms of hearing loss can interact with those common to Alzheimer’s, making the disease more difficult than it might be if the hearing loss had been addressed.”
Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, and increased risk to personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, and diminished psychological and overall health.
According to a study at Brandeis University, older adults with mild to moderate hearing loss expended so much cognitive energy on trying to hear accurately that it diminished their ability to remember a short word list. As a result, their cognitive function was poorer than those individuals of the same age who had good hearing.
Studies have also shown that although a significantly higher percentage of patients with Alzheimer’s disease may have hearing loss, they are much less likely to receive attention for their hearing needs than their normally aging peers.
Research has shown that the use of hearing aids, especially in combination with appropriate aural rehabilitation in a multidisciplinary setting, has helped to reduce Alzheimer’s patients’ symptoms of depression, passivity, negativism, disorientation, anxiety, social isolation, feelings of helplessness, loss of independence and general cognitive decline.
“A comprehensive hearing assessment should be part of any Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and any hearing loss should be addressed,” Kleindl said. “Most hearing loss can be managed with hearing aids. By addressing hearing loss, we can help improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s so they can live as fully as possible. These individuals — and their families and caregivers — face many challenges. Untreated hearing loss shouldn’t have to be one of them.”
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