Although often used interchangeably, Alzheimer’s disease is not the same thing as dementia. Recent studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a higher risk of developing generalized dementia. But might it also contribute to Alzheimer’s disease?
Untreated hearing loss may increase risks for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia characterized by loss of memory and cognitive function that progress to complete impairment, and eventually death. While there is no known cure, treatments are available to slow the advance of the disease. Research has also identified risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease, some of which people with hearing loss can address before it is too late.
Maintaining social connections and remaining intellectually active as you age provide mental stimulus that is believed to help lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Untreated hearing loss often prompts people to withdraw socially and engage in fewer activities that provide this stimulation, which may contribute to developing the disease when occurring in conjunction with other risk factors.
Hearing loss sometimes occurs as a symptom of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which in turn have been associated with a higher risk of developing a form of Alzheimer’s disease calledvascular dementia. Approximately 80 percent of Alzheimer’s disease patients have also been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. By not speaking to your doctor about your hearing loss or seeking treatment of any kind, you may be ignoring the symptom of a far more serious condition, one that when left untreated could lead to development of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or death.
Another risk factor Alzheimer’s disease researchers have identified is traumatic brain injury, which often results from a fall. Since hearing loss interferes with steady balance, your risk of a serious fall increases the longer it is left untreated.
While treating hearing loss with hearing aids cannot prevent you from developing Alzheimer’s disease, it can help you eliminate at least some of the contributing factors. Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have hearing loss, get tested, and take action!