When Lisle resident Angela Perosi, 85, started forgetting things and tuning out conversations, her daughter took her to a doctor — and then got her fitted for new hearing aids.
Studies have shown hearing loss can increase a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Perosi had hearing loss before she was diagnosed with mild dementia. But her arthritis made it difficult to keep taking the over-the-ear hearing aids in and out, said her daughter, Debby Berger, a Naperville resident and registered nurse. So Perosi started wearing “invisible” hearing aids that fit inside the ear canal and can be worn for months at a time.
“She’s more into the conversation at the dinner table,” Berger said. “(Before,) she just sort of sat there. I thought maybe this will help. The way to help her dementia is to get mental stimulation, and way to get mental stimulation is to hear.”
Over the last two years, doctors at the Hearing Health Center in Naperville have fitted 11 patients with the completely-inside-the-canal hearing aids. Audiologist Ronna Fisher, founder and president of the Hearing Health Center, said eight of those patients have experienced significant improvements in memory, mood and social interaction.
“I’ve been impressed, but not surprised,” Fisher said in a statement. “Studies show even mild hearing loss impairs patients’ relationships, incomes and emotional states. I’d always suspected it impairs their memories as well.”
In a recent National Institutes of Health study, researchers who followed 639 adults for 12 years found the worse the subjects’ initial hearing, the greater their likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. The risk doubled with mild hearing loss, tripled with moderate loss and went up five times for those with severe hearing loss.
The researchers theorized hearing loss may cause Alzheimer’s disease by creating cognitive stress or social isolation. Whether hearing devices affect cognitive decline and dementia will require further study.
Berger has noticed the link between hearing loss and memory loss with both of her parents. Her father, who died two years ago, lived with Alzheimer’s for 15 years. He also had hearing loss.
As a result, she’s consciously keeping her own mind — and ears — alert. When she took her mom to the Hearing Health Center, the doctor invited Berger to get a hearing test as well. It turns out she has high-frequency hearing loss from going to loud concerts when she was younger.
“I do not require any hearing aids as of yet,” Berger said. “But I do crossword puzzles every day, trust me.”
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