Addressing Early Hearing Loss Could Help Prevent Dementia

Addressing Early Hearing Loss Could Help Prevent Dementia

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease which affects thinking, behavior, memory, and the ability to perform everyday activities. According to The World Health Organization (WHO) someone is diagnosed with dementia every 3-4 seconds! This equals 7-9 million new dementia diagnoses worldwide each year! These statistics are staggering but it is important to remember that while there is no cure for dementia it is not inevitable. 

There are several factors which increase your likelihood of dementia such as age (over 65) and genetics, but there are several modifiable factors. Some of these include prioritizing a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, exercising for at least 30 minutes daily and maintaining an active social life. A rich social life helps keep us engaged, connected, and keeps our mind fresh. This is where hearing loss starts to be an issue. Hearing loss makes it more difficult to listen, respond to conversation and affects relationships. Overtime, untreated hearing loss becomes a major risk factor, leading to hearing loss. 

Managing Hearing Loss to Prevent Dementia

A study led by Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins University sought to better understand the connection to untreated hearing loss and dementia. He led a study in which 639 adults were tracked over about 12 years. The study showed how dementia was much more present in patients who had untreated hearing loss. A mild case of hearing loss doubled the risk, while a moderate case tripled the risk. For those in the study with severe hearing loss, not treating hearing loss created a five-fold risk in the development of dementia.

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s accounting for 60% -80% of all dementia cases each year. The Alzheimer’s Action Plan began in 2012, presenting five ambitious goals to both prevent future cases of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.  The co-author of the Alzheimer’s Action Plan, P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D. explains “The benefits of correcting hearing loss on cognition are twice as large as the benefits from any cognitive-enhancing drugs now on the market. It should be the first thing we focus on.”

 Why Does Hearing Loss Contribute to Dementia?

Researchers are not in concurrence about the connection between the two connections, just that hearing loss when untreated increases the risk. There are some theories as to why this is an issue. 

Cognitive overload

When someone struggles with hearing loss parts of words or sentences start to be difficult to detect. While hearing loss starts in the ears, the ultimate effect is put on the brain. The brain must struggle to understand what is being said with limited information. Over time this constant strain takes away from other cognitive functions, causing fatigue and a greater likeliness to self-isolate.

Social isolation

When a person struggles to understand conversation, withdrawal from social activities commonly occurs. Social isolation, reduced physical activity, and depression have all been recognized as risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia.

Brain shrinkage

Another theory is that when living with untreated hearing loss over the years, the brain becomes under-stimulated as it is deprived of certain auditory stimulation. Some structures of brain cells can potentially shrink when they don’t get enough stimulation.

MRI indicates accelerated brain atrophy in adults with hearing loss in the areas of the brain associated with memory and speech and language function. 

Treating your Hearing Loss to Lower the Risk of Dementia

Many specialists believe that one of the greatest things you can do to prevent dementia is to detect and treat hearing loss early. The most common treatment for hearing loss are hearing aids, which amplify the specific sounds you struggle with so you don’t have to strain to hear. You can connect to others, stay active and keep your mind clear. 

A recent study from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that seniors with hearing loss, under the care of an audiologist, performed significantly better on cognitive function tests when wearing hearing aids in comparison to those who did not. This was true even when the person wearing hearing aids had more severe hearing loss than the ones who were not wearing them.

Treat Your Hearing Loss Now!

If you suspect that you have even a slight hearing loss, it is important to not put off dealing with it. A slight issue now could turn into very devastating cognitive issues later on. Schedule a hearing loss, not only for you, but do it for those who love and rely on you.

Communication Disorders are More Common in Kids than you think

Communication Disorders are More Common in Kids than you Think

If you are a parent, then you are most likely juggling a lot. From playdates to carpools to considering your child’s health, there are so many things to account for. We all want our children to succeed to their highest potential and that means paying attention to their interactions and making sure they have the best tools at their disposal. Did you know that over 10% of children have a communication disorder? These are the most common disabilities among kids. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that:

 

  • Of children between the ages of 3-17, nearly 1 in 12 has had a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing. 

 

  • Almost 11% of children among children ages 3-6 have a communication disorder 

We do the best to identify any potential issue our children may have, but these statistics show that communication disorders are much more common than we may first suspect.

 

Identifying a Communication Issue Early

It is estimated that 2% of all children born each year will have a communication issue connected to speech and or language delays. Communication issues can affect social, academic, and future career potential if not addressed. Many children will develop normal speech and language skills by the time they reach school, but many will not. The sooner you identify these language issues the better. Research shows that children know a great deal about their language even before the first word is said. You can evaluate your infants ( under 3 years old ) for communication disorders such as a delay in speech, language or hearing. If ignored or undetected a child can quickly fall behind, but early detection increases the chances for improving communication skills.

Common Communication Disorders 

There are several broad disorders that may present on a scale, mildly to profound. Common disorders with speech, voice, and language comprehension include: 

  • Phonological Disorder: This pertains to children with speech issues. Kids affected by this disorder struggle to develop the level of speech appropriate for their age. Issues arise articulating words, producing complex sentences, and in the substitution of words.
  • Expressive Language Disorder: Struggles with verbal communication. This occurs when a child struggles to recall words, use the proper tense and has a limited vocabulary.

Hearing Loss and Communication Issues

One of the most common causes of communication disorders among children is hearing loss. Though hearing loss is commonly associated with old age, nearly 15% of children have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. This can be present at birth or develop due to an infection, exposure to loud noise or genetics. When a child suffers from hearing impairment it can be identified if you notice your child struggling to communicate. A hearing loss can cause sounds to be perceived as muffled or slurred. It can be more severe in around noise as your child struggles to separate words in sentences and makes it difficult for them to follow conversation.

Other Causes of Communication Disorders

Hearing loss is a common cause of communication disorders. Other common issues include:

  • Autism
  • Brain injury 
  • Nervous system disorder  
  • Attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder 
  • Developmental or neurological disorder

Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Children

If your child 1-5 does not react to loud sounds, has trouble with the localization of sound, or does not react to voices, even when being held, this could be a sign of hearing loss. As your child reaches school age, there are other signs to be aware of:

  • If your child struggles to follow simple commands,
  • falls behind with speech and communication skills
  • Must look at you to hear
  • Struggles with localization 
  • Experiences problems keeping up at school, grades slipping, or has behavioral issues

Treatment Options

There are several successful ways to treat communication disorders including:

  • Behavioral Therapy: This therapy focusing on developing skills to manage disruptive behavior.
  • Speech Therapy: focuses on building communication skills including the development of g language, articulation, and fluency. 
  • Changes to Environment: a quieter environment can help a child with a communication disorder focus and secede.

If you do suspect that your child has a communication disorder it is a good idea to schedule a hearing test as soon as possible. We can test your child’s hearing and help you find the best treatment to help them communicate and get the very best from life. Schedule an appointment today.

A Healthy Diet May Stave Off Age-Related Hearing Loss

A Healthy Diet May Stave Off Age-Related Hearing Loss

The more we understand about nutrition and food, we understand that what we choose to put in our body makes a big impact on every aspect of our health. The foods we choose affect our heart, blood pressure, immune system, energy level and mood. Now researchers are beginning to understand how choosing certain foods can prioritize hearing health as well.

 

Understanding Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition in the United States, affecting approximately 48 million people. Worldwide this condition affects 466 million people and is expected to rise exponentially in the next 30 years to 700 million. Described as an invisible condition, it often causes misunderstandings many attributes to lack of interest or lack of presence in relationships at home and in the workplace. It also doesn’t usually become severe overnight except in extreme noise exposure instances. More commonly it creeps in slowly, so the individual often has no awareness about their condition until they struggle to hear even in the most ideal of situations.

 

Understanding How Diet Affects Hearing

The more we understand our health, the more we see how the entire body supports itself together. When one aspect of health suffers the entire body must compensate or suffer. We are what we eat. A study led by Dr. Sharon Curhan of the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston conducted a study to identify an ideal diet to support hearing. Dr. Curhan’s team examined diverse dietary patterns to understand their effects on hearing health by tracking the diets of nearly 80,000 women over a 26 year span. She explains that those “whose diets scored highest for health and quality were up to 47 percent less likely to experience moderate or severe hearing loss than women with the lowest dietary scores.”

 

How a Health Diet Supports Hearing Health

Your hearing is supported by tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear which transmit sound information from the ears to the brain. When these become damaged hearing loss occurs, aggravating several health risks. One way to support your hearing health is to make sure your diet is full of nutrients that can protect the cells of your inner ear. These cells rely on a healthy supply of blood transmitted to the ear and foods that constrict blood vessels, clog arteries, and increase blood sugar levels can easily damage your hearing.

 

What Nutrients support Hearing Health

Dr. Joe McDermott published finding in the In the Daily Sentinel, discusses how nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and vitamins B12, C, D, and E, are essential to support healthy hearing. Omega-3 fatty acids have been identified as important for anti-inflammatory properties which strengthen blood vessels. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include fish, soy beans, spinach and flax seeds.

 

A diet rich in vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins such as poultry, fish, beans and nuts can improve heart health, blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and more. Avoiding any of these health complications can also protect your inner ear from interruptions in blood flow, which can cause permanent hearing loss.

 

Addressing a Hearing Loss

We stress annual hearing tests, especially after 65, to identify a hearing loss before it develops into the negative side effects of hearing loss. For those over 65, these risks often include an increased risk of depression, stress, anxiety, dementia, falls and hospitalizations. Hearing loss is a communication issue that affects relationships, and a sense of space. Untreated hearing loss can damage a person’s sense of self, independence, cognitive functioning and more. The sooner it can be treated the better. Schedule a hearing test now. If a hearing loss is detected make sure to treat it as soon as possible.

 

She says, “Although hearing loss is thought to be an unavoidable companion to aging, findings from our research have highlighted a number of dietary factors that can be modified and may reduce the risk of hearing loss.” Curhan’s study was built upon the foundation of previous studies that explored the benefits of vitamins and minerals on hearing health. 

 

In other words – yes, a healthy diet can in fact support better hearing health! In fact, one of the best ways to improve your hearing health is to take an annual hearing test. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Know Alzheimer’s Disease: Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer’s Month

Know Alzheimer's Disease Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer's Month(5) (2)

If you know someone who has suffered Alzheimer’s disease, then you already know how devastating this disease is not only for you, but for the caregivers and loved ones who surround them. Therefore, each September, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) celebrates World Alzheimer’s Month.  

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect over 50 million people across the globe with nearly 10 million new cases being reported each year. This September is a great time to ask questions about this common brain condition and what you can do to delay or prevent it from happening to you or your loved ones.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease was named and discovered by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, who first identified tissue damage in the brains of his patients with similar mental health issues. This tissue damage was later identified as the formation of amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, which caused damage or destruction to brain tissue and stopped the important communication between brain cells. The result of this often starts as mild forgetfulness and over time escalates into the inability to complete everyday tasks. This is because dementia is considered a progressive disease.

How to Recognize Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease can occur at any age but is most identified in people 65 or older. It is estimated that every five years after 65, the risk of dementia doubles. At first, it is common to not notice. Everyone forgets their keys or an appointment every now and then. However, there are a few ways to recognize Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory Loss: Pay attention to your memory. While it is normal to forget an item at the grocery store, if you have dementia, these lapse in memory will become more and more frequent. It’s common to forget the day of the week or forget your medication. Eventually you may identify gaps in your recent memories, like forgetting who you met last week, or what happened yesterday.

Completing Task: You may have driven the same route for years, enjoyed a recipe, or enjoyed a craft or hobby. However, as Alzheimer’s becomes worse, you may forget how to complete the project in the middle of it.

Mood Swings: The issue is that it can be hard to self-identify Alzheimer’s. It creeps up and while others may notice, it’s easy for the person affected to not be aware of these cognitive lapses. Alzheimer’s disease can lead to some changes in your mood or cause you to become confused in social situations. Your loved ones may point out that your personality has shifted.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Anything you can do to improve the health of your brain can also minimize the risk of developing dementia. While age is a huge and unmodifiable factor in the likeliness of the development of dementia, it doesn’t mean that it is certain. Other factors such as an active lifestyle, a healthy heart conscious diet, avoiding stress and a healthy social life all help increase cognitive health and decrease the risk of cognitive decline

The Connection Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss

Like dementia, the risk of hearing loss increases as we reach 65. One in three people over 65 deal with hearing loss and half of those over 75. While you may not think that hearing loss is as serious as dementia, the truth is that they are very connected. This is because, while hearing happens in the ears, comprehension occurs in the brain. As we lose more and more sound delivered to the auditory cortex of our brain, it creates cognitive strain.

If you’re living with untreated hearing loss, a study for Johns Hopkins by Dr. Frank Lin found that the risk of dementia is significantly higher. The study found that people with a mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia for those with moderate hearing loss the risk was tripled and found to be a five-fold risk for those with a severe loss.

Get Your Hearing Tested

The fight against Alzheimer’s starts with you. This disease starts with individuals but the devastating effects ripple through communities of those who love them. Like dementia, we are not always aware we have a hearing issue, but that does not mean that it isn’t affecting our cognitive health. One thing you can do to fight Alzheimer’s Disease this September is to schedule a hearing test. The tests are painless, easy and can identify if you are struggling with a hearing loss once and for all.