Memory Loss Frequently Points To Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing loss can often be hard to notice. Hearing loss doesnt happen instantly. Once you actually recognize the associated symptoms, the damage to your hearing is usually more advanced than most hearing specialists would want. But if you get your hearing tested soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.
Hearing Aids Can Help Prevent Dementia
Numerous studies show that hearing aids not only improve a persons hearingthey also help preserve a persons independence, mental abilities, emotional and physical health, and work, home, and social lives. A full, happy life keeps your brain active.
Early identification and treatment of a potential hearing loss helps minimize risks later in life.
Wondering what a hearing test is like? Find out what to expect here.
Wearing Hearing Aids Means Im Old
It is normal to be concerned that your hearing loss indicates that you are becoming older. Many persons who have hearing impairments choose to remain silent rather than participate in conversations and activities because they are concerned that their hearing impairments will make them appear helpless or less than competent. The truth is that staying connected with others might help you keep your brain younger and more engaged in your life.
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Hearing Loss Can Mimic Cognitive Decline And Alzheimers
If youre having problems understanding speech or finding it exhausting to have simple conversations, dont automatically assume youre suffering from dementia. Audiological problems might manifest themselves in ways that are similar to cognitive impairment, making regular hearing evaluations imperative.
However, if you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, it is crucial to understand that you are at a higher risk of acquiring dementia. Preventive measures should include as many as possible, such as adopting a healthy lifestyle, wearing hearing aids, taking medications as prescribed, and remaining as physically active and socially involved as possible.
New Research Highlights The Need To Improve Our Approach To Subclinical Hearing Loss
A recent article in JAMA Otolaryngology highlights this need. In this article, researchers reviewed two large population databases of 6,451 people who had had hearing and cognitive testing. The research showed that those who were 50 or older had cognitive scores that seemingly declined even before they reached clinically defined hearing loss . The research also noted that the association between hearing and cognition is stronger among subjects with normal hearing compared to those with hearing loss. For example, in the population they analyzed, cognition scores dropped in the normal hearing population faster than in the population with hearing loss. This result is somewhat counterintuitive, and suggests that maybe what we currently define as normal hearing may in fact include some people with hearing deficits. It also challenges what clinicians have accepted as standard classifications for hearing loss on hearing tests.
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Memory And Hearing Loss Whats The Relationship
Your brain starts to become strained from hearing impairment before you even know you have it. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the spillover.
How is so much of your brain affected by loss of hearing? Well, there are several specific ways:
- Constant strain: Your brain will undergo a hyper-activation fatigue, particularly in the early phases of hearing loss. This occurs because, even though theres no external input signal, your brain struggles to hear whats taking place in the world . This can leave your brain feeling fatigued. That mental and physical exhaustion often leads to loss of memory.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a hard time hearing. Social isolation will commonly be the result, And isolation can bring about memory problems because, again, your brain isnt getting as much interaction as it used to. When those muscles arent engaged, they begin to weaken. Over time, social separation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
- An abundance of quiet: Things will become quieter when your hearing starts to wane . This can be, well, rather boring for the region of your brain usually responsible for the interpretation of sounds. This boredom might not seem like a serious issue, but disuse can actually cause portions of your brain to weaken and atrophy. This can affect the performance of all of your brains systems including memory.
Comparison Of Patients With And Without Hearing Aid
At baseline HL patients that refused the hearing aids were more apathetic, mostly on the emotional domain of apathy, than those who accepted hearing aids. At follow-up, patients with hearing aids worsened on abstract logical reasoning and according to an exploratory analysis without correction for multiple comparisons, they improved on long-term spatial memory and apathy as compared to patients not wearing hearing aid. We decided to explain also the exploratory results and we suggest that since HL leads to a progressive disuse of long-term memory which is compensated by a strengthening of executive functions, patients without hearing aids may have needed more executive resources, such as logical reasoning, to compensate for long-term memory loss. Moreover, the different change at follow up in abstract logical reasoning might also be explained according to the hypothesis of relocation of cognitive resources, suggesting that in HL there is a concomitant increased engagement of short-term memory and executive functions.
Taljaard et al. performed a systematic review and meta-analysis including 33 studies, and reported that hearing impairment seemed to negatively affect all cognitive domains, while any type of hearing intervention significantly improved cognition, but they also suggested that their results were not conclusive, due to differences among studies, small sample sizes, and the failure to control for premorbid and other health factors in most studies.
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Animals And Ethics Statement
Five familial AD mutation male mice , which overexpress five familial AD mutations, were used in the current study. These mutations comprise three in human APP with the Swedish , Florida , and London , and two in human presenilin1, PSEN1 M146L, and PSEN1 L286V. The transgenic mice were purchased from Jackson Laboratory . All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The animal study was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and the Institutional Review Board of the Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences , and all experiments were performed in accordance with their guidelines.
Hearing Problems Might Be A Red Flag For Memory Loss
A new study has uncovered a link between hearing loss and mild cognitive impairment, which is often a precursor to Alzheimers. Previous studies have shown a link, but this study pinpoints what kind of hearing loss is linked to dementiaand what is not.
Scientists in the south of Italy looked at 1,604 people with an average age of 75. Of those people, 26 percent had what is called peripheral age-related hearing loss, which is caused by problems in how the inner ear and hearing nerves function. Twelve percent had central age-related hearing loss, which stems from problems with the brains ability to process noisein other words, they can hear, but they cant understand.
When the researchers looked at what kind of hearing loss overlapped with mild cognitive impairment, people with central hearing loss were twice as likely to have mild cognitive impairment as people who had no hearing loss. Amongst people with central hearing loss, 75 percent had mild cognitive impairment. But people with peripheral hearing loss were no more likely to have memory problems than those who had no hearing issues.
The study highlights the fact that hearing loss isnt always a problem with being able to hear sometimes, its the brains ability to process the noise that is malfunctioning.
The authors also conducted studies on verbal comprehension, noting that people who had trouble understanding speech had lower scores on memory tests.
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Hearing Loss Linked To Alzheimerswhats The Connection
Studies suggest that hearing loss causes brain changes that raise the risk for dementia. Brain shrinkage When the hearing section of the brain grows inactive, it results in tissue loss and changes in brain structurecreating the first link between hearing loss and Alzheimers disease. Studies show that the brains of people with hearing loss shrinkor atrophymore quickly than the brains of people with normal hearing.Brain overload An overwhelmed brain creates the second link between hearing loss and dementia. When its difficult to hear, the brain must work overtime just to understand what people are saying. Straining to hear all day, every day, depletes a persons mental energy and steals brain power needed for other crucial functions like remembering, thinking, and acting. This can further set the stage for Alzheimers, dementia and other cognitive disorders.
The Hidden Link Between Hearing Loss And Memory Loss
Over time, any number of structural, metabolic, or age-related changes can damage the cochlea, which is the region of the inner ear responsible for converting sound vibrations into nerve impulses. And when left untreated, these changes can result in a gradual inability to detect certain sounds, commonly high pitched or high frequency.
Although damage to the cochlea can affect people of any age, it is most commonly associated with those over the age of 50. And it is currently one of the leading causes of hearing loss.
However, gradual hearing loss is not the only symptom of this condition.
When sufferers struggle to make out words or process conversations, they often have to invest more cognitive effort to understand what is being said. And this places unnecessary load on other regions of the brain â specifically those responsible for memory.
This explains why the cognitive symptoms of hearing loss are sometimes misdiagnosed as dementia. The more one struggles to process sound, the harder it becomes to recall basic details â like names and dates and times.
So how do you know if youâre suffering from memory loss, hearing loss, or a combination of the two?
The short answer is â you get tested.
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Memory And Hearing Loss Whats The Link
Your brain begins to get taxed from hearing loss before you even know you have it. Your brain, memory, and even social life can, over time, be overwhelmed by the spillover.
How does a deficiency of your ear impact so much of your brain? Well, there are a number of specific ways:
- An abundance of quiet: Things will get quieter when your hearing begins to diminish . This can be, well, kind of boring for the parts of your brain usually responsible for interpreting sounds. And if the brain isnt used it begins to weaken and atrophy. This can affect the performance of all of your brains systems and that includes memory.
- Constant strain: Your brain will experience a hyper-activation fatigue, especially in the early stages of hearing loss. Thats because your brain will be struggling to hear whats happening out in the world, even though theres no input signal . This can leave your brain feeling tired. Loss of memory and other problems can be the outcome.
- Social isolation: Communication will become strained when you have a difficult time hearing. Social isolation will commonly be the outcome, Again, your brain is deprived of vital interaction which can lead to memory problems. When those muscles arent engaged, they start to deteriorate. Eventually, social separation can lead to depression, anxiety, and memory issues.
How Hearing Loss Impacts Your Memory
Last night, did you turn up the volume on your TV? If so, it might be an indication of hearing loss. The challenge is you cant quite remember. And thats been happening more frequently, also. You couldnt even remember the name of your new co-worker when you were at work yesterday. You just met her, but even so, it feels like youre losing your grip on your hearing and your memory. And as you think about it, you can only formulate one common cause: aging.
Certainly, both memory and hearing can be affected by age. But its even more relevant that these two can also be linked to each other. At first, that may sound like bad news . But the truth is, the connection between hearing loss and memory can often be a blessing in disguise.
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Hearing Loss Is Commonly Connected To Memory Loss
Its often hard to recognize the early symptoms and signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss doesnt develop over night. Harm to your hearing is commonly worse than you would want by the time you actually notice the symptoms. However, if you begin to notice symptoms associated with memory loss and get an exam early, theres a good chance you can prevent some damage to your hearing.
What Are The Best Hearing Aids For Dementia
For patients living with both dementia, hearing loss should never be ignored, as it may exacerbate dementia symptoms, increase their disorientation and make their environment less safe .
While there are no hearing products made specifically for dementia patients, there are plenty of devices out there that can still be helpful. They range from the relatively simple, such as a wearable microphone to premium hearing aids.
Hearing loss makes living with diseases like Alzheimer’s even more challenging. For people currently affected by dementia, hearing aids or other hearing devices are recommended to improve their quality of life and make communication easier.
If you are the caretaker of someone with Alzheimer’s or a similar disease that affects cognition, you are wise to investigate what hearing devices might work best. A hearing care provider will be your ally in this journey, as they’ll know the latest products that may work for your loved one. You’ll also be able to discuss your loved one’s specific needs, habits and abilities with the hearing care specialist.
For example, hearing aids may not always be the best solution. Most premium hearing aids are designed to be discreet, so they may be too small and too easy to lose for a patient with dementia, especially if they have dexterity problems. Hearing aids also require that a person remember to keep the batteries fresh and the device clean and in good working condition. Instead, assistive listening devices may work better.
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Benefits Of Wearing A Hearing Aid
Treating your hearing loss is the first step toward a healthier, happier life. Wearing a hearing aid can enrich your life and reopen many doors that may have closed for you over the years. Other benefits of treating your hearing loss with hearing aids include:
- Hearing your grandchilds first words
- Hearing nature again
- Attending dinners in noisy environments
- Enjoying parties and understanding conversation
Do Hearing Aids Reverse Cognitive Decline
Dr. Curhans research didnt get a clear answer to this question. Among volunteers with severe hearing loss, those who wore hearing aids had a slightly lower risk of subsequent subjective cognitive decline than those who didnt. But the effect was too small to be statistically significant.
Because they keep you connected withothers, hearing aids can help preventsocial isolation.
She would like to see hearing aids and cognitive decline get a hard look. There isnt much evidence over long periods of time and what we have isnt conclusive, she notes. Several studies have found no relation between hearing aid use and cognitive function decline, while others have been suggestive of a possible association, she told Healthy Hearing. This relation merits further study.
One recent and very large observational study did shed more light on this issue, finding that hearing aids appeared to delay the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia, along with depression and falls that cause injuries. However, it was not a randomized controlled trial, so the results could have been for other reasons .
As well, one large 2018 study analyzed results from more than 2,000 Americans age 50 and up who took word recall tests every two years for up to 18 years. Among those who acquired hearing aids along the way, the evidence suggested that the aids slowed the rate they lost memory of words.
His answer, Do they do it from the drawer?
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Memory Loss Frequently Indicates Hearing Loss
The symptoms and signs of hearing impairment can often be hard to detect. Hearing loss doesnt happen instantly. Damage to your hearing is often further along than you would want by the time you actually observe the symptoms. But if you get your hearing checked soon after detecting some memory loss, you might be able to catch the issue early.
Ways Hearing Loss Can Lead To Dementia
How might hearing loss contribute to cognitive problems and dementia? Lin suggests four possibilities. The most obvious is a common physiological pathway that contributes to both hearing loss and cognitive decline something like high blood pressure, for instance. But he and other researchers used statistical methods to take into account the factors known to be associated with both conditions, so Lin doesn’t give this explanation much credence.
Another possibility has to do with what researchers refer to as “cognitive load” essentially, that the effort of constantly straining to understand stresses the brain. This one makes intuitive sense.
“If you put in a lot of effort just to comprehend what you’re hearing, it takes resources that would otherwise be available for encoding in memory,” says Arthur Wingfield, professor of neuroscience at Brandeis University. Research in Wingfield’s lab has documented this effect on a short-term basis. The big question, he says, is whether years of drawing resources away from brain functions such as working memory will eventually reduce the brain’s resilience.
Finally, it seems very likely that social isolation plays a part. Being hard of hearing tends to isolate people from others: When you have to struggle to converse, you’re less likely to want to socialize in groups or go out to restaurants. And being socially isolated has long been recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.
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