By Ellen Verlo, MA, CCC-A
Q: My mother has Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. Would it be a good idea for her to get hearing aids?
A: Anyone with hearing loss should consider hearing aids. If a member of your family has Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia (Lewy Body, Parkinson’s, etc.) there is research that indicates hearing aids can promote continued social engagement, which helps maintain cognitive abilities longer than if hearing loss is allowed to go untreated.
The Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care recently added hearing loss as a modifiable risk factor for addressing dementia. Dementia and age-related hearing loss have significant impact on a person’s social functioning, independence, and quality of life. It is an accepted thought that hearing loss can add cognitive load and stress to an already aging brain, and it may contribute to social isolation, accelerating cognitive decline.
Healthy hearing, be it with hearing aids or not, can promote better physical activity and social interaction. Early treatment of hearing impairment must be viewed as a way to promote and maintain social participation, potentially reducing the burden associated with dementia. To date, there is no research that suggests hearing aids slow down or reverse cognitive decline. It is known, however, that by even partially restoring communication abilities, hearing aids can help prevent social and emotional loneliness and depression, improving patients’ mood, boosting the quality and quantity of social interactions, and enabling participation in more activities. These improved and more frequent activities can reduce some patient behavioral symptoms as well as caregiver’s burden.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, purchasing hearing aids with a trial period is a great idea. If they can tolerate this new aspect to daily life, there could be some positive changes in communication and participation in activities and conversations. If they cannot manage hearing aids, other amplification devices may be helpful. Ask your audiologist. There are answers to these challenging situations.
If you have questions about this article or your hearing health, please feel free to contact Audiology Consultants at 563-355-7712 or visit audiologyconsultants.com.