Hearing Loss Should Be Addressed in People with Alzheimer's, BHI Highlights during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month
Washington, DC, October 17, 2011 — The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging caregivers to address hearing loss in people with Alzheimer's disease during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in November. Unaddressed hearing loss can present an added, unnecessary strain on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and also on caregivers who suffer from hearing loss themselves.
As a “Champion” member of the Alzheimer’s Association Early Detection Alliance (AEDA), BHI also is educating the hearing health community and the people it serves on the importance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer's and coexisting hearing loss. Early detection, diagnosis, and intervention are critical because they provide the best opportunities for treatment, support, and planning for the future.
“When hearing loss is left unaddressed, it can significantly compound the challenges that people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers already face," says Sergei Kochkin, BHI's Executive Director. “But in many cases, the appropriate use of hearing aids can benefit people with Alzheimer’s.”
There is strong evidence that hearing impairment contributes to the progression of cognitive dysfunction in older adults. Unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language and sound, regardless of other coexisting conditions. But 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 wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, increased risk to personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, and diminished psychological and overall health.
Studies also have shown that although a significantly higher percentage of people with Alzheimer's disease may have hearing loss than their normally aging peers, they are much less likely to receive attention for their hearing needs.
Research has shown that the use of hearing aids, especially in combination with appropriate aural rehabilitation in a multidisciplinary setting, has helped to reduce symptoms of depression, passivity, negativism, disorientation, anxiety, social isolation, feelings of helplessness, loss of independence and general cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s.
BHI is urging caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s to also address their own hearing health—recognizing the negative impact that untreated hearing loss can have on their own quality of life and emotional well-being. Caregivers can determine if they need a comprehensive hearing check by a hearing professional by taking a free, quick, and confidential online hearing test at www.hearingcheck.org.
"A comprehensive hearing assessment should be part of any Alzheimer's diagnosis and any hearing loss should be addressed," says Kochkin. "By addressing hearing loss, we can help improve quality-of-life for people with Alzheimer's so they can live as fully as possible."
About Alzheimer’s Disease
(Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. Today, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and they are supported by nearly 15 million caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
Any individual experiencing one or more of the following 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s should see a doctor to find the cause:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
For more information about the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer's disease, early detection and diagnosis, contact the Alzheimer's Association at 877.IS.IT.ALZ (877.474.8259) or visit www.alz.org/10signs.
Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org. To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit www.hearingcheck.org. To participate in the discussion forum, visit www.betterhearing.org, click on “Discussion Forum,” and go to “Welcome!” to register.