WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- In recognition of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is raising awareness of the importance of addressing hearing loss in people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. The ability to communicate with the help of hearing aids can help enhance quality of life for the hearing-impaired person, including those living with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers. Identification and remediation of hearing loss prior to the evaluation of dementia also can help ensure a more accurate medical evaluation.
According to BHI, 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.
Hearing loss also can play a confounding role in the diagnostic process itself. For the last five years, Lindsey Jorgensen, AuD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of South Dakota, has been conducting in-depth research on the impact of undiagnosed hearing loss on the diagnosis of dementia. According to Jorgensen, one of the most commonly used tests to diagnose dementia—the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE)—is highly affected by changes in audibility.
"The MMSE relies on the physician reading a series of questions to the patient," Jorgensen explains. "The patient's ability to accurately hear each question may have a significant impact on the outcome of the exam. Add in the fact that many older patients have undiagnosed hearing loss, and it raises the question: 'Should we be identifying and treating patients for hearing loss, with hearing aids or other appropriate methods of treatment, before evaluating them for dementia?'"
Also deserving attention is the suggestion that hearing loss is more common in people with Alzheimer's disease than in their normally aging peers. Yet people with Alzheimer's are less likely to receive attention for their hearing needs.
The good news is that research findings show that the use of hearing aids among individuals with Alzheimer's who have hearing loss, in combination with appropriate aural rehabilitation in a multidisciplinary setting, has helped to reduce symptoms of depression, passivity, negativism, disorientation, anxiety, social isolation, feelings of helplessness, loss of independence and general cognitive decline.
As a "Champion" member of the Alzheimer's Association Early Detection Alliance (AEDA), BHI is educating the hearing health community and the people it serves on the importance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer's and coexisting hearing loss. Early detection, diagnosis, and intervention are critical because they provide the best opportunities for treatment, support, and planning for the future.
BHI advocates that hearing checks, hearing healthcare, and hearing aids when appropriate be included in the regimen of care for people with Alzheimer's disease. BHI also advocates that a comprehensive hearing examination and hearing healthcare be part of the diagnostic process.
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Today, an estimated 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, and they are supported by more than 15 million caregivers.
For information about the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's disease, early detection and diagnosis, contact the Alzheimer's Association toll-free Helpline at (800) 272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/10signs.
Founded in 1973, 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 www.hearingcheck.org. To participate in the discussion forum, visit www.betterhearing.org, click on "Discussion Forum," and go to "Welcome!" to register.
SOURCE Better Hearing Institute