Recent studies show the close relation that hearing loss has to memory
Some 38 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. However, for many senior citizens, hearing loss has just become an accepted part of growing older and something that must be dealt with. Period. No exceptions.
But there are extreme consequences, much bigger than simply “not hearing.” There is significant evidence to support the theory that hearing loss can affect one’s memory and cognitive functioning. For people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and further dementia, their hearing sensitivity is incredibly precious; and not just their ability to hear everything, but also their ability to process that information.
Recent studies have shown the close relation that hearing loss has to memory. For example, the symptoms of hearing loss can almost mirror those of Alzheimer’s disease. Hearing loss can induce social isolation, which can lead to confusion and loss of orientation. Most often hearing loss leads to some form of depression, and this could be a form of pseudo dementia.
The degeneration that takes place in neural structures that is caused by Alzheimer’s Disease affects the part of the brain which controls our ability to process the information we hear. However, advanced stages of this disease affect our ability to even understand spoken language at all. Because most seniors do have hearing loss, and most go untreated and do not have adequate amplification, they do not receive even the necessary incoming sound information that is needed for normal auditory processing to take place.
Current research has shown that almost half of mildly impaired patients with dementia have improved in some manner of cognitive functioning when they received help from hearing amplification and most patients are able to tolerate having something in or on their ears. Restoring the ability to hear to patients that are challenged in memory and cognitive functioning, gives them a better chance of processing spoken information. Further research has shown that people without dementia or Alzheimer’s disease have benefited in memory related tests just from receiving hearing amplification.
Memory and hearing are linked in more areas than just symptoms of depression, isolation, withdrawal from social activities, confusion, and non-verbal mannerisms; they also affect processing abilities in the higher areas of the brain which account for our ability to understand. Understanding the information we hear and receive is key in slowing down the progression of these horrible diseases. It is unreasonable to expect a patient with dementia to have optimal understanding abilities and memory-related functions if they do not have the proper “set of ears” to do it with. Patients who have received hearing aids at the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease have shown to benefit in their overall daily cognitive abilities.
In some isolated cases, patients were misdiagnosed as having some form of memory-related disease when in fact they simply had hearing loss. We know how hearing loss affects the ability to “receive” the sounds we hear, but we are just beginning to understand how it can affect our ability to then process what we heard and understood. Because of this, it is a safe assumption that hearing testing and tests for central auditory processing abilities should be routinely performed on all patients receiving treatment for Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia. Furthermore, all seniors should have their hearing routinely tested at the onset of symptoms of hearing loss or any sign of central auditory processing disorder.