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Hearing loss and dementia

The population of people with both hearing loss and cognitive decline is large and growing. Problems with communication are one of the earliest signs of dementia. Doctor Jessica Vilendrer, audiologist, and Dr. Virginia Reed, Physical therapist, from the FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Center in Fort Myers share this blog post concerning correlation between hearing loss and memory loss.

See Dr. Reed and Dr. Vilendrer present this information during the Fitness Friday segment on WINK News!

  • Hearing loss is the 3rd most common chronic health condition in older adults, and it affects 1 out of 3 adults over the age of 65.
  • In 2016, 5.4 million Americans had the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease.  That number is expected to continue to grow.
  • A study from Johns Hopkins found that hearing loss increases risk of dementia
    • Mild hearing loss doubled risk
    • Moderate hearing loss tripled risk
    • People with severe hearing loss were 5 times more likely to develop dementia
  • Adults with untreated hearing loss developed cognitive impairment 3.2 years sooner than individuals with normal hearing.
  • Cognitive decline  was 30-40% faster in individuals with hearing loss.
  • Cognitive decline is associated with hearing loss, but we cannot say that one causes the other. However, there is evidence  that hearing loss does cause changes in the brain.
    • Sensory deprivation, such as hearing loss, cause changes to the structure of the brain.  If one, sensory system is working well, such as vision, it will use regions of the brain where there is a deprived sensory system, like in someone with hearing loss.
    • Furthermore, even in early stages of hearing loss brain activity decreases in auditory regions of the brain
    • This decreases working memory and makes it so an individual requires more effort to listen

Do hearing aids prevent cognitive decline?

  • Well-fit hearing aids allow people to participate in cognitively-stimulating behaviors
  • Evidence supports that interpersonal and engaging activities are an effective intervention for dementia.
  • Hearing aids allow cognitive and interpersonal stimulation:
    • Hearing aids decrease listening effort in individuals with hearing loss
    • This allows people to feel less exhausted after socializing
    • Which means more energy for additional interactions with family and friends

Activity- Test yourself and test your family members, with these simple, cognitive tests.

Three word registration:

Say “Please listen carefully. I am going to say three words that I want you to repeat back to me now and try to remember. The words are BANANA, SUNSET, CHAIR. Please say them for me now.”

If the person is unable to repeat the words after three attempts, move on to Step 2 (clock drawing).

Clock drawing:

Give the person a paper with a large circle drawn on it.

Say: “Next, I want you to draw a clock for me. First, put in all of the numbers where they go.”

When that is completed, say: “Now, set the hands to 10 past 11.”

You can repeat the directions for this test, but move on to the next part after 3 minutes.

Three word recall:

Ask the person to recall the three words you stated in Step 1. Say: “What were the three words I asked you to remember?”

If your loved one has difficulty with any part of this test, they may have problems with memory or cognitive decline.

At FYZICAL our mission is to change the way healthcare is delivered in America. We know that hearing loss is associated with early onset dementia and dementia leads to a significant increase in fall risk. To meet these challenges head on Fyzical is offering free hearing screenings at our (the)Metro Parkway location. For more information please call 239-561-5616