Alzheimer’s disease is something we should all be clued up on. As many as 1 in 10 Americans get it. Despite it being so common, Alzheimer’s is often spotted long after it emerges and is sometimes under-treated. Early symptoms can get dismissed as part of growing old. The good news is that when it is diagnosed early, treatment can slow the progression of the disease and prolong quality of life. However, that’s only possible when you know what the early symptoms are, right? It also helps to know about the risk factors, which include hearing loss.

Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Dementia is a brain disorder often linked to old age. It affects communication and daily activities. Sometimes dementia can be temporary with symptoms coming on because of an imbalance of hormones, vitamins, or as a reaction to some drugs.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that particularly affects thought, memory and language. Alzheimer’s makes up as much as 50-60% of dementia cases. A few common symptoms are loss of memory, loss of brain function, disorientation and a disinterest in self-care. It is not curable but if it is spotted and treated early, it’s symptoms can be slowed.

Hearing loss and Alzheimer’s

Research shows that having hearing loss increases your risk of dementia. According to research, people with hearing loss are 1.4 times more likely to develop dementia. The worse your hearing loss, the more likely it is you’ll develop dementia.

Why does hearing loss cause dementia or Alzheimer’s?

When the brain cells used for interpreting sound are no longer receiving signals from your ears, they start to deteriorate as they’re not needed anymore. This can be the beginning of a downward spiral of decreasing brain function.

Early Alzheimer’s indicators

Here’s an interesting one to look out for: hyposmia, loss of smell. This is an early and common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. There are other causes for loss of smell of course. However, if you have trouble with smell or taste (the two are closely linked) you should get checked over by a doctor. This is especially true if you are also experiencing other symptoms, such as:

  • Memory loss, especially of recent events
  • Daily tasks, such as cooking
  • Forgetting words
  • Confusion with times and places, like appointments or forgetting locations
  • Diminished judgement, for example buying things you don’t need
  • Problems with understanding humour
  • Losing things, like keys, dentures or hearing aids
  • Behavioural changes, such as becoming angry or irritated for no reason
  • Reduced interest in activities or hobbies.

Along with hearing loss other risk factors include age, genetics, family history, heart disease, high blood pressure, isolation, and depression.

Treating hearing loss can help prevent Alzheimer’s.

Here at Scottsdale ENT, we help people with hearing loss. If you think you or a loved one has symptoms of hearing loss, why not book a hearing test with us today?

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Dr. Debra L. Hamila, Au.D., CCC/A

Debra Hamila received her master’s degree in audiology from Cleveland State University and her Au.D. from Arizona School of Health Sciences and has been a practicing audiologist for more than 33 years. She has worked in a variety of ENT offices, hospital, and clinical settings.