ADULT HEALTH – To most people, hearing loss and memory loss are well-known side effects of aging. However, research has shown that hearing loss might actually present Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
In fact, among those over 60, hearing loss accounted for over one-third of the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.[pq]According to the World Health Organization, 48 million people experience some type of hearing loss, and at age 65, one out of every three people have hearing loss.[/pq]
Meanwhile, more than five million Americans live with Alzheimer’s.
The two diseases have many symptoms in common, including depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation, problems talking and understanding what’s being said, and denial, defensiveness, or negativity.
As hearing loss increases, so does your risk of developing dementia. This may be because brain activity and hearing are related. The temporal cortex, occipital cortex, posterior parietal cortex, and brain stem all play a role in the ability to hear a sound and judge its location.
Our hearing is largely based on the small hair cells in our ears, and age or exposure to loud noises over time can make the small hair cells disappear. Without hair cells, it becomes much harder to capture sound, and the less sound you hear, the less active your nerves are- which causes your brain to be less active as well.
An inactive brain can lead to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Alzheimer’s also causes the brain to shrink dramatically over time, which affects nearly every function. Your brain cells can also tangle when inactive, which cuts off nutrient flows and eventually kills the cells.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss or Alzheimer’s, talk to a doctor about getting tested for hearing loss and potentially getting a hearing aid.
Several studies have shown that even patients with Alzheimer’s showed an improved ability to understand others and communicate after they were fitted with hearing aids.