Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. What we found is a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease. For every 10 decibels (a measurement of volume) of hearing loss there is a 20% increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Another study demonstrates adults with a mild to moderate hearing loss used so much energy to hear, they were unable to recall a short list of words. Other cognitive abilities affected by hearing loss include learning new tasks, reduced alertness, irritability, anger and fatigue. Thus hearing loss can make it appear as if someone is having memory issues when really it is a hearing problem. Left untreated, hearing loss can result in permanent changes in the way the brain works.
On a positive note, when treated with hearing aids and listening training, symptoms such as depression, anxiety, cognitive decline and disorientation can be reduced. Just as we know working crossword puzzles and other word games stimulate the brain, so does hearing. Just hearing sounds in your environment stimulates the brain. Basically it is a case of use it or lose it. And unfortunately, while there are many people with Alzheimer’s who have hearing loss, they are less likely to receive hearing help.