Go to the Alzheimer’s Association website for reliable, easy-to-understand information about Alzheimer’s and dementia, and encourage members who experience signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s to seek early treatment. Although there’s no cure, certain drug and non-drug treatments may help alleviate Alzheimer’s symptoms and enhance quality of life.
An awareness campaign should include the risk factors for compromised cognitive health. Diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity, depression and lack of physical exercise are among the leading risk factors besides age, family history and heredity.
You can, and should, add hearing loss to that list, because a number of studies have shown a strong link between hearing health and cognitive health. One of the most prominent studies, conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers, concluded that hearing loss is a risk factor in an estimated 36% of U.S. dementia cases.
Individuals with a “dual sensory impairment” — loss of both vision and hearing — may be even more at risk. Specifically, a University of Washington study of 2,051 older adults found that dual sensory impairment was associated with an 86% higher risk for dementia and a 112% higher risk for Alzheimer’s, compared with having no sensory impairments.
Of course, prevention is always preferable to — and far less costly than — treatment. Among the risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia, several are modifiable, including alcohol consumption, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Can hearing loss treatment be considered a preventive strategy? Among the research pointing to an affirmative answer is a study conducted by the University of Exeter and King’s College London, which found that people who wear hearing aids for age-related hearing loss maintain better brain function over time than their non-aided peers.