We love the opportunity to help bring awareness and end stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s disease this World Alzheimer’s Month. Beginning in 2012, September has been named World Alzheimer’s Month by non-profit organization Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). Alzheimer’s disease is a growing issue throughout the globe, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has named the disease as an international public health priority. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are growing issues. As of now, every three seconds, someone in the world develops the disease (https://www.worldalzmonth.org/get-involved/).
Hearing Health and Alzheimer’s Disease
As hearing healthcare professionals, we care deeply about the issues surrounding Alzheimer’s because recent research has found strong correlations between hearing loss and an increased risk of developing dementia. One of the most commonly referenced studies was conducted out of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and found that those with mild hearing loss were at a twofold risk of developing dementia, and those with severe hearing impairment were a mammoth five times as likely to develop dementia as their peers with normal hearing (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/).
In order to better understand Alzheimer’s disease, raise awareness and combat stigma, it is important to first bust common myths surrounding dementia.
Myth #1: Memory Loss & Confusion are Normal Parts of Aging
While some little memory quirks are typical as we age, memory loss and memory issues that interfere with daily living are not. For example, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s people will forget recently learned information, important events or appointments, and will rely more heavily on reminders or family members for tasks they used to complete on their own. Atypical confusion includes getting lost on familiar roads. An example of typical memory loss or confusion is forgetting an appointment but then remembering it later. (https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs)
Myth #2: “Ignorance is Bliss” with Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Because it is so shrouded in misinformation and stigma, many people do not visit a doctor when they first start noticing changes in their memory or problem solving skills. Alzheimer’s typically follows a predictable 14-year trajectory from onset to end of life. Unfortunately, most people are diagnosed in year 8-10 of the disease, meaning they have gone 7 years without treatment. It is imperative to see a doctor if you notice changes in your memory. Some memory issues are due to curable issues such as vitamin deficiencies. Even if it is Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, early intervention with medications and lifestyle changes are a person’s best chance for preserving quality of life for longer periods of time. (https://www.caring.com/articles/alzheimers-awareness-month).
Myth #3: There are No Treatments for Alzheimer’s, So Why Even Bother
Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, “no cure” does not mean “no treatment”. There are currently a few treatment options available to prolong quality of life and delay progression of the disease. These are typically in the form of prescription cholinesterase inhibitors to help delay symptoms, therapy, and lifestyle changes. As mentioned earlier, current treatment options are more successful the earlier intervention begins (https://www.caring.com/articles/alzheimers-awareness-month).
Myth #4: There is Nothing I Can Do to Help Prevent Dementia
Scientists are still unsure what actually causes Alzheimer’s disease. For early-onset (those who experience symptoms before age 65) there is most likely a genetic component. For those with late-onset Alzheimer’s, the cause is complicated brain changes that occur over a period of decades, and are probably a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-causes-alzheimers-disease). It has been determined by the scientific community that leading a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet high in leafy greens, regular exercise, an active social life, and regularly partaking in mentally challenging games or activities are all ways to remain mentally healthy as we age (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-causes-alzheimers-disease).
Myth #5: A Hearing Health Only Matters for My Ears
As mentioned earlier, there is a strong correlation between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk for developing dementia. Luckily, there have also been studies that find the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants to be effective methods to help mitigate and slow cognitive decline in older adults (http://blog.aarp.org/2015/03/26/cochlear-implants-shown-to-reverse-cognitive-decline/).
If you have noticed changes in your hearing, memory or problem solving abilities, reach out to our friendly team at Audio Advantage Hearing Aid Center today. What a better time than World Alzheimer’s Month to do something good for your hearing – and mental – health!