November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month

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November is a time to come together with loved ones, friends and family as we start the winter holiday season. With the social flurry that comes with November, it isn’t a coincidence that this is also National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s Awareness promotes disease education and furthers efforts towards effective treatment and the race for a cure. Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating form of dementia, usually occurs with advancing age and is marked by cognitive decline, memory issues and disorientation. Dementia can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life and mobility.

Unfortunately, hearing loss and dementia are not entirely unconnected. Hearing loss isn’t just an issue with your ears. Leaving hearing loss untreated has huge ramifications for cognitive functioning and places stress on the mind. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s disease. When dementia is present, untreated hearing loss can exacerbate existing symptoms.

There is good news though - while most hearing loss is permanent, it can also be effectively treated with hearing aids. Treating hearing loss has been shown to relieve cognitive stress. Additionally, treating hearing loss helps us stay connected to the people and things we value in life. If you or a loved one is experiencing hearing issues, it’s time to schedule a hearing exam.

 

Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease

While the connections between dementia and hearing loss may not be intuitive, they make sense when you understand the impact that hearing loss has on the mind. Hearing loss largely affects the activity of the mind making it close to the cognitive concerns of dementia.

Permanent hearing loss is mostly rooted in damage to the sensory cells of the inner ear. Tiny hair cells become damaged throughout our lifetime. They lack the ability to repair themselves, so damaged hair cells will never regrow or reform, they simply cease to function. When a significant number of hair cells are no longer functional, it starts to manifest as hearing loss. Distinct details about sound and speech become hard to distinguish.

When this happens, our brain tries to pick up the slack for us. While the mechanics of the ear are used to detect sound, interpreting the meaning of a sound is done in the brain. The less incoming sound signals we receive, the harder it becomes to discern that meaning. The brain working under the stress of hearing loss, devotes more resources towards understanding important noises, like speech, taking energy away from other cognitive tasks. While working harder can compensate a little bit for the hearing loss, mostly it is just challenging and exhausting mental work. Attention given to the task of hearing is taken away from other important mental jobs - like coordination and balance, encouraging the likelihood of accidents and falling.

This cognitive strain is also thought to be a major factor in why Alzheimer’s is more prevalent in people with untreated hearing loss. The effort and resources used for trying to hear create shortcomings in other areas of the brain and may put more stress on people who are already susceptible to dementia.

 

Hearing Loss and Isolation

Untreated hearing loss also has a role in conditions that can worsen Alzheimer’s disease. Social isolation and lack of mobility can be fed by hearing loss and lead to the symptoms of dementia deepening. Social isolation is a health issue where a person lacks connection and communication with the world around them.

Hearing loss makes it harder to connect with the world. Trouble hearing makes it more stressful to participate in social activities, even interacting with family and close friends. Anxiety and stress brought on by untreated hearing loss make it progressively harder to engage socially. By withdrawing from regular interactions and activities, a person puts themselves at risk of isolation.

The symptoms of dementia can worsen significantly if isolation and hearing loss are also involved. A person already undergoing cognitive issues can become more confused and upset when isolation is a factor. Hearing loss creates further barriers in communication.

 

Treat Hearing Loss

Treating hearing loss has shown to be a remarkable source of cognitive relief. In a recent French study almost 80% of patients receiving hearing loss treatment showed significantly better cognitive functioning one year later. If you or a loved one is facing hearing issues, now is the season to address your hearing health.

Your hearing is part of this season of connecting with family and loved ones and Audiology Associates of Redding can help. Contact us today to open the path to life-long hearing health.

Encouraging a Loved One to Take a Hearing Test

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Have you noticed differences in the way you communicate with a loved one? If they need you to talk louder or repeat yourself often, it could be one of the many signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is incredibly common, but many people have problems taking the initial step to confront the issue. On average, studies have found that people ignore their hearing issues for seven years before seeking help.

While people tend to procrastinate around their hearing loss, the earlier it is treated the easier it is to manage, so encouraging your loved one to get a hearing test is always a good idea. If left unaddressed, hearing loss can greatly restrict a person’s overall health and their quality of life. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips for helping someone you care about.

 

Recognize the Signs of Hearing Loss

If someone is struggling with hearing loss, it is important to know what to look for. Most people with developing hearing loss can detect sound, but instead of hearing it loud and clear it may come across as distant and muffled. While they can catch that something has been said, they may struggle to understand it.

The first and most common sign of hearing loss in a loved one is in their conversational behavior. If they ask you to speak up or repeat what you said frequently, even if you are talking at a normal, clear volume, it can indicate something is wrong. Sometimes a person with hearing issues will bluff their way through an interaction - possibly giving out-of-context replies and answers to what’s been said.

Out in the world, hearing loss can restrict a person, especially in loud and busy settings. If your loved one is withdrawing from restaurants, parties, travel, and other social functions hearing issues may be responsible. Hearing issues may make them very quiet or distracted in large social gatherings.

If you watch television or listen to music or the radio, take notice of how they set the volume. Volume levels that are constantly being turned up can mean that hearing at lower volumes has become a challenge. Detecting any of these signs or multiple signs is a good indicator you should talk to your loved one about hearing loss and encourage them to get a hearing exam.

 

Show You Care

Talking to your loved one should be a quiet, focused conversation. Make sure you have a good indoor setting where you can have a private discussion without background noises interfering. Explain to them what you’ve observed and why you’d like them to get their hearing tested. Then, take time to listen to their perspective and feelings about hearing loss.

For many people, learning that their hearing issues are affecting other people is the reason they confront their hearing loss. Often, a person believes that their hearing issues only involve themselves and don’t have an impact on how others communicate. Of course, with hearing, it always involves more than one person. Losing the ability to communicate with someone you care about can be heartbreaking. Let your loved one know how much you value your relationship with them, and why you care about their health.

 

Finding Solutions

The good news to share is that while hearing loss is usually irreversible, it can be treated with hearing aids and other assistive devices. Hearing aids have developed in leaps and bounds over the past several decades. Modern designs are barely noticeable when worn, slipping discreetly behind the ear or inside the ear canal. Hearing aids are also individually programmed to match a person’s hearing loss precisely and help them hear the tones and frequencies they are most challenged by.

Using hearing aids can help a person hear better and greatly improve their quality of life. Hearing aids make comprehending speech and following conversations easier and more pleasurable. They can help a person continue engaging in the social activities they enjoy and staying close with the people they love.

What’s the next step? Be there for your loved one if they need help making an appointment and talk to them about the results of their hearing test. Here at Audiology Associates of Redding, we love working with people to find hearing solutions that match their lifestyle and needs. Our comprehensive hearing testing is painless and noninvasive, and can give you or someone you care about a complete picture of any hearing issue.

What are the Signs of Hearing Loss?

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Hearing loss is extremely common, effecting about one-in-three Americans 65 and over and one-in-two Americans over the age of 75. These numbers are quite staggering. One might assume that if half the population over the age of 75 has a hearing loss, then hearing aid use would reflect similar numbers. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, studies have found that only about 30% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them.

Why do so few people with hearing loss use hearing aids? One answer to this question is that many do not realize or accept changes in their hearing. The average American waits about seven years from the time they notice changes in their hearing to the time they seek treatment, meaning people are living almost a decade with untreated hearing loss on average. It is imperative to know the early signs of hearing loss to ensure you or your loved ones seek treatment as soon as hearing loss begins to present itself.

Signs of Hearing Loss

1. That obnoxious ringing in your ears. If you have started to notice an annoying ringing, buzzing or clicking in your ears, it is most likely tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying issue that causes one to hear phantom noises - most often ringing or buzzing. Tinnitus can be constant, or it can come and go. It can also be extremely distracting, or be simply a bit bothersome. However, your tinnitus presents itself, it’s a good indication that it might be time for a hearing assessment. A large majority of people who suffer tinnitus also have a hearing loss.

2. Hearing, but not understanding. This one is extremely common, and quite confusing to many. It may feel as though others are mumbling or speaking in hushed tones. This is due to the fact that with hearing loss, often the first thing to go is our ability to decipher subtle differences between sounds such as “b” and “p”. This can cause a lot of confusion in conversations and can cause one to feel like they are hearing people perfectly fine, however, just cannot quite grasp what they are saying.

3. Comments from friends and family. Often, our closest friends and family members are the first to notice changes in our hearing. If your friends and family have expressed a concern about your hearing, have complained that you are “not listening” to them or grumble that the TV volume is always too high, it may be a sign that there have been some changes in your hearing.

4. Difficulty with or withdrawing from group conversations and social situations. Another common early sign of hearing loss is difficulty holding conversations with more than one or two people at a time. This is because our brains are using extended resources to hear, and cannot switch focus as quickly and accurately as they did when our hearing was better. While some people recognize this difficulty right away, trouble with group conversations is not as obvious to others. These people tend to find themselves subconsciously withdrawing from social situations or group conversations they used to enjoy - simply because the conversations have become frustrating and difficult.

5. Frequently asking others to speak up. Think back to your last few conversations. How many times did you need to ask your communication partner to speak up or repeat themselves? Did you find yourself “smiling and nodding” because you couldn’t quite catch what they said? Of course we all need phrases repeated from time-to-time, however, if this is happening quite often, it is probably time for a hearing screen.

6. Exhaustion after social events. Straining to hear takes a toll on our bodies - a toll that can leave us feeling extremely drained. This is especially true after social gatherings with multiple people such as office happy hours, family parties or group dinners. Feeling overly exhausted after attending these types of events may be a sign of hearing loss.

 

Audiology Services of Redding

If you live in the Redding area and have noticed these or any changes to your hearing, reach out to our friendly staff today. We are proud to offer comprehensive hearing screens with knowledgeable, professional and caring audiologists. We look forward to an opportunity to walk with you on your journey to better hearing and an improved quality of life.