21st September World Alzheimer’s Day
Dementia and hearing loss. Is there a connection?
Researchers at John Hopkins believe there could be. Although hearing loss does not directly cause Alzheimer’s there are links between the two.
One possible reason for the link between the two is cognitive load. Loss of hearing means that other parts of the brain work harder to compensate. This means there is less energy left to work on other aspects such as memory.
Social isolation is another possible factor linking dementia and hearing loss. Being unable to hear can mean missing out on conversations and experiences. This, in turn, can impact mental health and lead to isolation.
This research suggests that acting on hearing loss could reduce the risk of dementia or the severity of it. This is not to say that everyone with hearing loss will eventually develop dementia. However, if we can do our part to keep our loved ones engaged then we may be able to help reduce the risk of memory loss.
Living with both
As hearing loss and dementia have similar symptoms living with both is very difficult. Both make it more difficult to communicate. They also increase social isolation and impact independence. This can make an individual’s dementia seem much worse.
Coping with dementia and hearing loss
- Regular hearing tests – It’s important to continue to monitor hearing loss. The help of a hearing aid may be of benefit to combat social isolation.
- Environmental factors – Reducing background noise and ensuring the area is well lit can improve communication.
- Improving communication – Finding out how the individual likes to communicate – such as lip reading.
- Visual clues and prompts.
Hearing aids will not be the right solution for everyone with dementia as they can be difficult to get used to. Seeking advice from an audiologist can help to make the right choice.