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.
    You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again – Regina’s Story

    Regina has suffered from hearing problems since she was an infant, recognized as regular chronic ear infections. And, as with unfortunate events, she has experienced a multitude of audiology catastrophes.

    It was many years before Regina crossed paths with Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat; where her lifetime of hearing problems was addressed effectively and treated with the delicate care that she desperately required.

    Regina’s journey began when she was taken to a regular paediatrician by her mother from a young age. Her ears were, what we describe as an audiologists recipe for disaster, ‘flushed out’.

    This dangerous procedure caused a nasty infection, which spread to her mastoid bone and, at the age of 15, she underwent a tympanoplasty mastoidectomy to stop the infection spreading. This only forbade her future struggles with hearing loss. 

    As with poor diagnosis, Regina was faced with another canaloplasty which didn’t work. Soon after, she received a BAHA, which is a cochlear implant in her skull that acts as a sound processor that detects sound and transforms it into vibrations. 

    However, suffering from a history of poor hearing care, she was unaware of the former issues her ear presented.

    By now, this would be described as any audiologists nightmare. But, we’re proud to have helped Regina on her road to optimum hearing and reconnect her to her loved ones.

    When she arrived at Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat it was evident that she was losing hearing on her right side. At this point, she was fitted with a ReSound hearing device, which provided the catalyst to a new and improved hearing.

    The first thing Regina noticed was the indefinite sound she had been making whilst emptying the dishwasher, completely unaware of the noise she was making!

    “I mean, the detail that I can hear now it’s like, Whoa, I didn’t realize I was making that much noise. I need to be quieter!”

    Treated with professional care, Regina received a comprehensive hearing assessment with Dr. Debra Hamila.

    “I just love, love, love Dr. Hamila, she is such a professional and loving person. I was so impressed with the office and what she did with the ReSound, I just love her.”

    Like many others, it takes years for people to realize they have a hearing problem. Regina described this moment as life-changing.

    “You don’t realise you’re walking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again. Especially now I’m a full-time Grammy Nanny, I can hear so much more and it has enriched my life incredibly.”

    What advice would you give to someone who is deliberating on taking the first step towards better hearing?

    “My advice to them would be to have a hearing test. Especially as we age our hearing goes down. It’s really unfortunate that people carry their pride and are not willing to learn to walk with the rock in their shoe. You don’t realise you’re waking with a rock in your shoe until you’re able to hear again.”

    Regina is one of many patients who has been impacted by our audiological services and we are proud to have been able to provide the tool towards better hearing and a lifetime of many more memories.