BHI Highlights Importance of Hearing Health to Alzheimer’s Patients during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month
Washington, DC, November 1, 2010 - The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) announced today that it is participating in National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month this November and is urging caregivers to address hearing loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
As part of its outreach, BHI also is educating the hearing health community and the people it serves on the importance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and coexisting hearing loss. The Alzheimer’s Association believes that early detection, diagnosis, and intervention are critical because they provide the best opportunities for treatment, support, and planning for the future.
“People living with Alzheimer’s face many challenges,” says Sergei Kochkin, BHI’s executive director. “Hearing loss shouldn’t have to be one of them. When hearing loss is left unaddressed, it can significantly compound the challenges that people with Alzheimer’s and their families already face.”
There is strong evidence that hearing impairment contributes to the progression of cognitive dysfunction in older adults. Unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language and sound, regardless of other coexisting conditions. But when an individual has both Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, many of the symptoms of hearing loss can interact with those common to Alzheimer’s, making the disease more difficult than it might be if the hearing loss had been addressed.
Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, increased risk to personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, and diminished psychological and overall health.
Studies also have shown that although a significantly higher percentage of patients with Alzheimer’s disease may have hearing loss than their normally aging peers, they are much less likely to receive attention for their hearing needs.
“A comprehensive hearing assessment should be part of any Alzheimer’s diagnosis and any hearing loss should be addressed,” says Kochkin. “Most hearing loss can be managed with hearing aids. By addressing hearing loss, we can help improve quality-of-life for people with Alzheimer’s so they can live as fully as possible.”
Research has shown that the use of hearing aids, especially in combination with appropriate aural rehabilitation in a multidisciplinary setting, has helped to reduce Alzheimer’s patients’ symptoms of depression, passivity, negativism, disorientation, anxiety, social isolation, feelings of helplessness, loss of independence and general cognitive decline.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive and fatal brain disease that causes problems with memory loss thinking and behavior. Today, there are as many as 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, from 2000 to 2006, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased 47.1 percent. With a rapidly aging population, Alzheimer's will continue to impact more lives in the coming years. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
BHI recently became a “Champion” member of the Alzheimer’s Association Early Detection Alliance (AEDA). The Association’s campaign, “Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters,” identifies the warning signs of Alzheimer’s. Any individual experiencing one or more of the signs should see a doctor to find the cause
“With the holidays upon us, when we are seeing family and friends more frequently after many months, it is important that each of us remain vigilant to the early signs of Alzheimer’s in the people we love,” says Kochkin.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the 10 signs include:
- Memory changes that disrupt daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation declaring November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. .
“We are extremely enthusiastic to participate in this year’s National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month,” says Kochkin. “We believe that by easing the additional strain that unmanaged hearing loss places on people with Alzheimer’s, their families, and caregivers, we can make a meaningful difference in their lives.”
Founded in 1973, the BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org. To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit at www.hearingcheck.org. To participate in the discussion forum, visit www.betterhearing.org, click on “Discussion Forum,” and go to “Welcome!” to register.