In 2007, the then-editor of the American Journal of Audiology called on audiologists to become actively engaged in the area of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment. In his editorial, Anthony T. Cacace called on these hearing healthcare professionals to develop alliances with educational programs, support groups, primary care physicians, and neurology clinics as a way to be part of a comprehensive network of individuals needed to enhance clinical evaluations and treat this ravaging disease. Underscoring the unique skills that audiologists bring to the table, Cacace made plain that the services these hearing healthcare professionals provide can be a great help to people affected by Alzheimer’s and their families.
Five years have passed since this call-to-action, and the need for involvement by the hearing healthcare community is even greater. Today, an estimated 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and increasing evidence shows that:
- unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language and sound;
- people with dementia have higher rates of hearing loss, yet lower levels of hearing healthcare intervention;
- undiagnosed hearing loss can play a confounding role in the medical evaluation of dementia; and
- the appropriate use of hearing aids can often improve quality of life for both the individual with Alzheimer’s and the caregiver.
As Cacace pointed out: “Being at the entry point in the hearing health care delivery system, the audiologist is in a unique position to identify ‘at risk’ individuals, facilitate referral to the appropriate medical specialist (e.g., neurologist), and also provide comprehensive care.”
In this same spirit of leadership, BHI urges hearing healthcare professionals to join in promoting National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November and in raising awareness of the importance of addressing hearing loss in both the diagnostic process and to enhance quality of life for those with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.
There are several ways to participate in National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Here are some ideas:
Thank you for taking this leadership role in advancing the importance of hearing health in the diagnosis and care of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information on Alzheimer’s, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.