Why You Should Schedule a Hearing Test for World Alzheimer's Month

Why You Should Schedule a Hearing Test for World Alzheimer’s Month

In Ear Health by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

Do you have someone in your life in need of a hearing test? People put off getting hearing tests for many reasons. Some legitimately don’t realize they might have hearing loss. With a steady decline in hearing ability over the years, that process might have been so incremental that they didn’t notice that certain sounds are no longer audible. Others resist getting a hearing test. They realize that hearing has become more difficult, but they think that admitting to hearing loss is tantamount to admitting to old age. Others are skeptical about the benefits of hearing aids, thinking back to the clunky hearing aids they observed in the past. Still more people don’t think the value of hearing aids is worth the cost. If you have someone in your life who fits any of these profiles, then the month of September is a great time to encourage a hearing test. Why, you ask? Each September we celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month. This annual commemoration lets us promote research and support about the condition, and we can also express gratitude for those who are providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Some recent scholarship has exposed a powerful relationship between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, as well. This month is a perfect opportunity to educate your loved ones about the higher risk of Alzheimer’s among those with untreated hearing loss. With this fact in mind, you can encourage a hearing test as part of the month’s celebration. This test might prevent Alzheimer’s down the line, so be sure to take the opportunity to encourage your loved ones to get tested. 

The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

Recent studies have exposed a powerful connection between hearing loss and dementia. Dr. Frank Lin is a leading scholar in the field, working at Johns Hopkins University, and his team has discovered a connection in many different studies and contexts. It appears that those who have untreated hearing loss have higher rates of dementia than their demographic counterparts who do not have hearing loss at all. They also discovered that those who have untreated hearing loss tend to have a faster rate of cognitive decline once dementia sets in. Furthermore, they have seen a reduction in this increased risk of dementia for those who wear hearing aids. Although they don’t eliminate their risk altogether, they have much better results than those who have untreated hearing loss. These findings exist in the world of population averages and statistical relationships, so you might be curious what is happening in the life and brain of a person with hearing loss that increases the risk of dementia. 

Communication and Cognitive Health

One of the primary ways to keep the brain functioning in the senior years is to have a rich social life full of communication. When we communicate, the brain is quite active, assembling what others say into meaningful thoughts, and then providing an opportunity to improvise a response on the spot. This mental challenge works to strengthen the neural pathways and to keep the logical process agile and sound. However, limitations on communication can have the opposite effect. When communication ability is impeded, the brain is not able to exercise its logical and creative functions in this way. Hearing loss commonly gets in the way of communication ability, and what used to be a steady flow of information can become a mess of random sounds. The brain scrambles to assemble something meaningful out of that puzzle, but it finds that many pieces are missing. Although experts are still not sure exactly how hearing loss raises the rates of dementia, we can imagine how the brain struggles to function in this difficult cognitive environment. On the contrary, we can also see how getting treatment for hearing loss reduces the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Hearing aids help many people improve their communication ability, and those conversations are a crucial way to keep the brain healthy in the senior years. If you have someone in your life in need of a hearing test, this information might be just what they need to get tested. Why not share this information with someone you love to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month this year?