We cannot believe it is already November and almost time for the holiday season! We are looking forward to gathering with our loved ones and celebrating this joyous season together. The holidays give us a particularly good excuse to connect with our friends and family through festive dinner parties, corporate holiday events and family travel. While this is all very exciting, it is important to remember the millions of people (perhaps even you or your loved ones) who may feel lonely or isolated this holiday season. People isolate themselves from those they love for many reasons, two of them being hearing loss and cognitive decline.
This November, we want to honor Alzheimer’s Awareness Month by discussing dementia and its connection to hearing loss and social isolation. We also want to talk about what we can do to help uplift and include our friends and family who may be feeling lonely this season.
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
November was deemed Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in the United States back in 1983 by former President Ronald Reagan. Since the early 1980s, we have seen a sharp incline in the number of Alzheimer’s cases in our country. In 1991, there were about 14,000 Alzheimer’s-related deaths on record (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_20/sr20_028.pdf). Today, more than 5.7 million Americans live with the disease and this number is expected to rise to a whopping 16 million by 2050 (https://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics/).
It is imperative that we all work together to learn the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and work to prevent its negative effects as much as we can.
Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia and Hearing Loss
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are virtually the same. Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia, which is a general term used to describe a set of symptoms. Symptoms of dementia are memory losses or difficulty with problem solving that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s activities of daily living. Researchers are still unclear on what specifically causes Alzheimer’s disease, however, it has been linked to the formation of excess proteins that make it difficult for the brain’s cells to communicate with each other.
Unfortunately, people with hearing loss have been found to have a higher risk of developing dementia. In a well-known 2011 study from Johns Hopkins University, it was found that people with mild hearing loss had a risk-factor of developing dementia that was twofold that of their peers with normal hearing. Those with severe hearing loss were had a risk-factor that was an astounding fivefold those with typical hearing.
Alzheimer’s Disease, Hearing Loss and Social Isolation
Social isolation is defined as little to no interaction with other people. Social isolation can lead to many different ailments, including an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, depression and even dementia.
Unfortunately, untreated hearing loss causes many people to withdraw socially. Those with untreated hearing loss may not even realize that they have begun turning down party invitations or skipping Thursday night happy hours more often than they used to. This could be due to the fact that trying to communicate with untreated hearing loss (especially in crowds or noisy environments) can prove to be extremely difficult and frustrating. Many find it easier to stay home – and socially isolate – than try to navigate their hearing loss with friends and family.
It is this clear connection between hearing loss and social isolation that many scientists use to explain the correlation between hearing loss and an increased risk for developing dementia.
Get Your Hearing Tested This Holiday Season
Have you noticed that you or someone you love has become a bit more withdrawn than they used to be? Are you dreading navigating conversations during Thanksgiving dinner more than you are excited (and not because Uncle Jack’s politics)? Have conversations started to become frustrating rather than enjoyable for you or someone you love?
If this is you, you may be experiencing untreated hearing loss. Reach out to our friendly team at Audibel today to schedule your free hearing assessment. We provide comprehensive hearing services, including hearing aid fittings. Who knows – it may just be the best gift you give yourself (and those you care about) this season!