The Link between Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease

Jul 11, 2011 by

An article on Cape Mary County Herald.com talks about a recent study at Brandeis University that suggests there is a link between mild-to-moderate hearing loss and deficient memory. Since nearly all behavioral tests for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) are presented orally, the excessive cognitive energy expended as a result of hearing loss may actually impair memory performance.

Many handbooks and training instructions to caregivers and clinicians in assessing and treating AD and other dementias remain silent on the need to assess and treat hearing loss before assessing and treating mental deficiency. In fact, too often the patient’s family is told that hearing aids will not do them any good because of their dementia!

Untreated hearing loss in the elderly can present symptoms so close to those of AD as to render any mental health diagnosis as meaningless until the loss is detected and corrected. Indeed, there are myriad other maladies and conditions — when coupled with normal aging factors — that can appear to be AD to unsuspecting health professionals.

As an example, the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) — which is considered the gold standard for AD screening — consists of 30 questions delivered orally and include such difficult questions as counting backwards by sevens, starting at 100, or stating the current date, asking who is the current president, and other such mental tasks which require normal hearing as well as thinking.

Add hearing impairment and normal aging factors, and the validity of the results would be suspect, if not inconclusive. Yet that is the standard to which most patients who are diagnosed and treated for AD are held. This can result in the patient being treated for AD with psychotropic drugs, and see a dramatically reduced personal independence and quality of life.

One of the most effective and pervasive ways to delay if not prevent the unnecessary advancement of the symptoms of AD for most people is to assure appropriate amplification for hearing loss.

All people who live long enough will suffer the effects of normal aging to varying degrees. Cognitive shifts will occur along with other changes in physiology. However, by taking care of an advancing hearing loss — and the earlier the better — they stand a better chance of not being over-diagnosed.

If you have hearing loss problems, don’t wait! Contact your local hearing doctor and get a hearing evaluation. HearFlorida has Hearing Care Centers located throughout South Florida. Call us today and make an appointment.