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September is the month in which we recognize Alzheimer’s and its effects on our population. This month is dedicated to information, education, and awareness of the most prevalent form of dementia that affects an estimated 70 percent of dementia cases. 10 million new cases of dementia are reported every year and there are 50 million cases total based on estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO).
It affects the ability of the brain’s cognitive functions and has proven to be extremely disabling to sufferers as well as psychologically, emotionally, physically and financially burdensome to all those involved.
As part of a globalized push to break through the stigma of dementia and Alzheimer’s in this month of September, we encourage the public to get further acquainted with the nature of the condition, its prevalence worldwide, and strategies via personal health regimens and practices. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, degenerative condition of the brain and there are no specific causes known to us yet. What we do know is that there are multiple risk factors that leave people more vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Let’s first explore some of the many factors that can make people vulnerable to such a debilitating condition. The factors we cannot change include age, genetics, and family history.
People over the age of 65 are at the greatest risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s after which, the risk goes up five-fold every five years. The risk increases up to almost one third after the age of 85. Alzheimer’s and aging are not synonymous and age is not a causal factor.
If one’s parents or siblings have Alzheimer’s then the risk is greater as is if one or more family members have it. Both sides of the family having the condition also pose a greater risk as genetics is also a risk factor.
Scientists can confirm that two types of genes play a role in the manifestation of Alzheimer’s. The deterministic gene and the risk gene. Thus far the deterministic gene has been found to cause less than one percent of Alzheimer’s cases reported.
Links Between Hearing Loss and Dementia
As studies are continually conducted and medical research continues to forge ahead, we do know that all risk factors of Alzheimer’s can be influenced. This is why we need to stay well informed and practice a sustainable, preventative wellness program.
In 2013, a study was published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine website. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, it provided much-needed information about the link between hearing health and cognitive decline. The study involved almost 2,000 participants over the age of 65. There was up to a 40 percent increase in cognitive impairment for those that suffer from hearing loss at varying degrees as opposed to the participants that had normal hearing. The author, Dr. Lin of John Hopkins University, Medical School concluded that “Those with the most severe hearing loss also had the greatest mental decline and the highest likelihood of developing it.”
Unfortunately, specific causal connections have yet to be established but the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline has long been confirmed by the medical society. What can be agreed upon is that early detection of hearing loss plays a pivotal role in mitigating the effects of cognitive decline.
When hearing loss is left untreated the neural pathways that were created by the brain to receive, translate and interpret sound are corrupted and eventually abandoned. When this occurs our perception of sound is forever changed and we are left to struggle with distorted sound information which leads to miscommunication and physical and mental fatigue. When communicative abilities are compromised, people tend to withdraw and thereby leaves themselves open to depression and isolation. Thereby creating the perfect environment for cognitive decline to thrive in. Our interactions with our friends, family, and peers are changed on every level.
What we also know is that addressing hearing loss issues helps to nurture our cognitive health. Too often people leave their hearing needs aside until it is too late. The average time is 5 to 7 years after an assessment and diagnosis have been recommended.
At Ascent Audiology we encourage you or your loved ones to call us regarding any questions concerning your hearing health. Your first appointment with us will be a positive foundation for your ongoing wellness and overall health. We look forward to your beginning a richer and fuller hearing experience!