Steven Hale, Director of Audiology at Steven Hale Hearing, explains the significance of recent medical research linking hearing health and Alzheimer’s
For years now, we as audiologists have wondered if there is a link between poor hearing health and Alzheimer’s disease. Some recent findings in a Lancet Commission article appear to confirm this suspicion.
The discoveries explore the impact of sensory deprivation on the brain – such as hearing loss – and how this can affect other neurological functions.
The article cites “…modifiable risk factors such as hearing impairment…” as one direct link to susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. While hearing loss is held in context as one of 12 such risk factors, it should most certainly be borne in mind that these are accountable for some “…40% of worldwide dementias, which consequently could theoretically be prevented or delayed… it is never too early and never too late in the life course for dementia prevention…”
As tinnitus has been cited as a ‘soft’ sign of neurological disease, it should also be considered a contributory factor and included under the hearing loss banner.
Another article on dementia also advises us “…according to one study, people with mild hearing loss are two times as likely to develop dementia, and this increases to three times for those with moderate hearing loss…”
Having experienced clients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they and their nearest and dearest often tell me that the sufferer’s confidence can be almost immediately impacted, leading to a natural urge to withdraw – especially in social situations. This, in turn, may create a form of self-exclusion and isolation, which may impact directly upon the neurological disease, as brain stimulus is reduced.
Whilst we, as a profession, sadly cannot currently boast that there is a cure for tinnitus, we are certainly able to offer some assistance which will help on a day-to-day basis – and possibly stave off the development of other neurological issues.
In fact one hearing aid client of mine recommended her son to me as his tinnitus was so disruptive that he had told his wife he ‘couldn’t go on’. In his case we were able to find a hearing aid and tinnitus management therapies that reduced the impact his tinnitus had on him, thereby reducing the stress he was suffering from and creating less negative impact on him and his brain functions – ultimately changing his life.
I am certain that all of my fellow audiological professionals will be able to recite countless stories of clients they have been able to help with their hearing health, just as I can. However, hearing loss and tinnitus are conditions whose effects are wide reaching.
We are continually striving to reduce these impacts through research, evolving technology, treatments and client feedback – and to ultimately prevent one sensory loss from creating or enhancing a neurological one. Until that day arrives, however, we as a profession remain dedicated to providing the very best lifestyles that we can – and to keeping you safe, active and social.