At Pacific Hearing Care, we want to take a moment to acknowledge that September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, which is a larger group of disorders that impair mental functioning. The relationship between untreated hearing loss and dementia is important to highlight, and it gives us an opportunity to shed light on Alzheimer’s disease as well.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
This particular degenerative brain disease most commonly affects people’s memories, and it can be extremely difficult for people with Alzheimer’s to remember new or recently acquired information. As the disease progresses, memories that are not so recent are also susceptible to being lost.
While Alzheimer’s is most often understood to be a disease that affects memoires, there are several other impacts that the disease can have on a person’s cognitive abilities. Spatial awareness can be difficult for people with new and advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. When this happens, people can become easily disoriented or quite suddenly lost in otherwise familiar spaces, including their own homes.
Other people experience more debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s at certain times of day or night, and in their disorientation can wander off and become lost. These episodes can be especially scary for people with Alzheimer’s as well as their family members and loved ones, because they may not have the ability or awareness to ask for help when needed—or to know to whom help should be directed.
Alzheimer’s disease does not only affect the person suffering from cognitive decline—this devastating disease affects the whole family and community around that person. People in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease can often experience wildly different personalities and suffer from extreme behavioral changes. These can include wild mood swings that make people with the disease irritable. People in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s can also exhibit extreme suspicions about the people who are around them, and develop rather paranoid behavior.
The difficulties of watching a loved one lose their memories and their bearings more generally can be exacerbated by the changes in personality, emotional well-being, and everyday behavior of someone experiencing Alzheimer’s disease. The immense amount of chronic stress that comes with living with, being around, and watching a loved one slowly decline from Alzheimer’s disease can be extremely difficult.
Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment and Research
Alzheimer’s typically affects older people but new research is showing that people as young as 30 can be experiencing the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s. In the United States, The Alzheimer’s Association reports that early-onset Alzheimer’s may be affecting around 200,000 people nationwide who are under the age of 65. There are overall approximately 5.4 million people in the United States who are living with Alzheimer’s and it is the sixth-leading cause of death in this country. Among the top 10 causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is the only one that cannot be prevented. It also cannot be cured and it cannot even be slowed down. At the same time that we are experiencing amazing increases in life expectancy for people in the United States, we are experiencing larger numbers of people with Alzheimer’s. Someone develops Alzheimer’s disease every 68 seconds in this country and experts believe that, at this rate, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s will quadruple to as many as 16 million people by the year 2050.
The large number of Baby Boomers who are starting to age and who are approaching ages when Alzheimer’s disease is often detected are of special interest, and need special care in this time period. As this population of people may suffer from Alzheimer’s as well as other issues of cognitive decline, the need to understand, research, and cure Alzheimer’s is very important.
Thankfully there are organizations such as Alzheimer’s Disease International that have dedicated themselves to Alzheimer’s awareness. Alzheimer’s Disease International designated September as World Alzheimer’s Month in 2012, and set September 21 as World Alzheimer’s Day to commemorate the organization’s first international conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since then they have been helping organizations host events and they have been publishing reports that create awareness around this devastating disease.
Dementia and Untreated Hearing Loss
One area of research into dementia, specifically, has focused on the links between the disease and untreated hearing loss. A 2011 study conducted at Johns Hopkins, found that “people with hearing loss were 24% more likely to have dementia,” as one researcher wrote, continuing later by explaining that “the worse the hearing loss was, the more likely the person was to develop dementia.”
This study and other studies like it do not definitively conclude that hearing loss causes Alzheimer’s, but the connections to dementia are important awareness points for us. Remaining in contact with our team at Pacific Hearing Care for regular hearing exams is a great step in tracking your hearing health. Our team will also help guide you through options, should hearing assistance devices be necessary for you. Keeping an eye on the connections between hearing health and overall mental and cognitive health is just one thing you can begin to do during this World Alzheimer’s Month. Contact us at Pacific Hearing Care today to schedule an appointment!