Hidden Hearing on article “Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia”

Age-related hearing loss starts messing with the volume

Age-related hearing loss starts messing with the volume

We were sent a link to an article in The New York Times, “Straining to Hear and Fend off Dementia,” written in Feb  by Katherine Bouton, a former Times editor. In her article, Bouton described a personal experience that many have often encountered. Many times, we have been at a party or meeting and tried to have a conversation with an individual. We strain and stretch, eager to hear above the din of surrounding conversations, then we forget what we were trying to say and forget our friend’s name. We are defeated by our ears.

Social isolation increases our risk of dementia. It can happen anytime, any place. When it does, it threatens our sense of well-being and stability. Recently, a friend complained about difficulties she experienced carrying on a conversation. She wondered why she had joined the celebration. She felt alone, distanced from everyone in the midst of the crowd. Isolation in the middle of a party is a scary place to be. Hearing aids may work during a quiet conversation, one on one, but frequently fail in a group setting.

Dr. Frank Lin from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine describes this experience as “cognitive load.”

“Essentially, the brain is so preoccupied with translating the sounds into words that it seems to have no processing power left to search through the storerooms of memory for a response.”

Dolores Madden from Hidden Hearing explains  – “Our heads are working so hard to catch the conversation, we cannot respond appropriately. In a long-term study in 2011, Dr. Lin from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that people with mild hearing loss had a greater risk of dementia than people with normal hearing.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

Johns Hopkins researchers finds widespread under treatment of hearing loss

John Hopkins University and Hospital

Though an estimated 26.7 million Americans age 50 and older have hearing loss, only about one in seven uses a hearing aid, according to a new study led by Johns Hopkins researchers. The finding adds clarity to less rigorous estimates by device manufacturers and demonstrates how widespread under treatment of hearing loss is in the United States, the study investigators say.

“Understanding current rates of hearing loss treatment is important, as evidence is beginning to surface that hearing loss is associated with poorer cognitive functioning and the risk of dementia,” says study senior investigator, otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. “Previous studies that have attempted to estimate hearing aid use have relied on industry marketing data or focused on specific groups that don’t represent a true sample of the United States population,” adds Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

To address the data gap, Lin and Wade Chien, M.D., also an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins, used data from the 1999-2006 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a research program that has periodically gathered health information from thousands of Americans since 1971. During those cycles, participants answered questions about whether they used a hearing aid and had their hearing tested.

Their new findings, to be published in the Archives of Internal Medicine online February 13, 2012, showed that only about one in seven individuals age 50 or older – 14 percent – use hearing aids. Although hearing aid use rose with age, ranging from 4.3 percent in individuals 50 to 59 years old to 22.1 percent in those 80 and older. Overall, another 23 million could possibly benefit from using the devices, says Lin.

Lin says many with hearing loss likely avoid their use, in part, because health insurance often does not cover the costs and because people do not receive the needed rehabilitative training to learn how to integrate the devices into their daily lives. But another major reason, he says, is that people often consider hearing loss inevitable and of minor concern.

“There’s still a perception among the public and many medical professionals that hearing loss is an inconsequential part of the aging process and you can’t do anything about it,” says Lin. “We want to turn that idea around.”

Lin and his colleagues currently are leading a study to investigate the effects of hearing aids and cochlear implants on the social, memory and thinking abilities of older adults. Funding support for this study was provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

If you have any questions about hearing loss or hearing aids contact Hidden Hearing

Study suggests a connection between hearing ability and brain volume.

Hearing Aids can slow down brain atrophy

A hearing aid may help with slowing the process of atrophy, as well as help hearing ability. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania shows that losses in hearing may affect how fast the hearing center of the brain decays, increasing the effort necessary for older adults or anyone with hearing loss to successfully comprehend speech.
When one of our senses is altered, the brain reorganizes and adjusts to the loss. In the case of hearing loss, researchers found that the gray matter density of the auditory areas of the brain was lower in people who had a lowered hearing ability – which suggests a connection between hearing ability and brain volume.
“As hearing ability declines with age, interventions such as hearing aids should be considered — not only to improve hearing, but to preserve the brain, said Jonathan Peelle, PhD, a Research Associate in U Penn’s Department of Neurology. “People hear differently, and those with even moderate hearing loss may have to work harder to understand complex sentences.”
In the study, the relationship of hearing acuity to the brain was noted, first measuring the brain’s response to increasingly complex sentences, then the cortical brain volume in the auditory center. Older adults of normal hearing for their age were examined to determine whether normal variations in hearing had any effect on the makeup of the areas of the brain that support speech discrimination.
They found that people with hearing loss had less brain activity when listening to complex sentences. People with hearing loss had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, which supports the theory that those areas of the brain may atrophy faster when their ability to hear gets worse.
The research points to problems in both hearing perception and discrimination — understanding what is being said becomes more and more difficult.
The research was conducted in older adults, but the results have implications for younger individuals as well, including those who listen to music at loud volumes.
“Your hearing ability directly affects how the brain processes sounds, including speech,” said Peele. “Preserving your hearing doesn’t only protect your ears, but it also helps your brain perform at its best.

If you have any questions about hearing loss contact Hidden Hearing.

Every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease went up by 20%

Recent research has found a relationship between hearing loss and the onset of memory loss in Alzheimer’s Disease.

In a September online report in the journal Psychology and Aging, Canadian researchers compared the hearing ability of 74 musicians aged 19 to 91 and 89 non-musicians aged 18 to 86.

They defined a musician as someone who started musical training by age 16, had the equivalent of six years of formal lessons, and continued practicing until the day of testing. The non-musicians did not play any musical instrument.

They gave both groups four different auditory tests, and found that while musicians did not have any advantage over non-musical peers in being able to detect sounds as they grew steadily more quiet, they were better able to hear speech over background noise, detect short gaps in sound and detect differences in frequencies, and these gaps only widened with age.

For instance, by age 70, the average musician was able to understand speech in a noisy environment as well as an average 50-year-old non-musician.

“Being a musician may contribute to better hearing in old age by delaying some of the age-related changes in auditory processing in the brain,” said Benjamin Zendel, lead investigator for the study at the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care in Toronto. He noted that the ability to hear a tone is not directly dependent on those brain circuits.

An earlier study, published in May online by PLoS One — a peer-reviewed, open-access resource from the Public Library of Science — also found that musical training can offset some of the memory deficits of aging.

Researchers at Northwestern University found that longtime musicians aged 45 to 65 bested non-musicians in the same age group in tests of auditory memory and the ability to hear speech in noisy environments.

The scientists tested 18 musicians who had started playing an instrument at age 9 or earlier and consistently played throughout their lives against 19 non-musicians.

Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern, said the experience of musicians at extracting meaningful sounds from a complex soundscape, and remembering sequences of sound, builds up hearing skills that seem to help offset declines that might otherwise occur with aging.

“The neural enhancements we see in musically-trained individuals are not just an amplifying or ‘volume knob’ effect,” Kraus said, but rather a result of brain connections that help individuals better process sound.

Finally, there’s the September report in the Archives of Neurology that found older adults with hearing loss appear to be more likely to develop dementia.

The study, part of a long-term project funded by the National Institute on Aging out of Johns Hopkins University, tracked 639 people aged 36 to 90 tested for hearing loss between 1990 and 1994.

Researchers found that by 2008, 58 of them had developed dementia, including 37 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. And those who were experiencing hearing loss at the start of the study were much more likely to develop dementia.

Specifically, the scientists found that for every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease went up by 20 percent.

The lead author, Dr. Frank Lin, said it seems logical that the effects of hearing loss could lead to social isolation and mental strain and thus leave an individual more at risk for dementia, but said it’s also possible that hearing loss is a symptom of dementia. He’s trying to find out by studying whether older adults who wear hearing aids obtain any cognitive advantage.

“Unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language, exhaust cognitive reserve and lead to social isolation” no matter what other conditions may exist, said Sergi Kochkin, executive director of the Better Hearing Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Washington.

Other research suggests that people may devote extra mental resources trying to hear and process sound to such an extent that other aspects of functional memory are harmed.




Do the little things for a big brain bonus!

Taking care of "little" health glitches now could slash your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease later by 40 percent.

Taking care of “little” health glitches now could slash your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later by 40 percent. Turns out the small stuff — updating eyeglass prescriptions; clearing up skin and foot problems; getting chronic sinus infections, arthritis, leaky bladders and digestive disorders treated; even making sure dentures fit and hearing aids work — makes a huge difference. A major new Canadian study has found that each ignored problem boosts your risk for brain trouble by 3 percent. Having eight to 12 untreated little health issues boosts them by 30 percent to 40 percent. That’s large!

It’s also a shake-up, for three reasons. First, these “little things” aren’t what most of you, or us docs or even brain scientists, focus on in terms of protecting our gray matter. Second, brain benefits could be just the motivation needed if you’ve been dawdling about taking care of a small health nag. Third, this study points out a potent new way to keep what you’ve got upstairs in great working order.

Why does it work? For one thing, staying mentally active keeps your brain connections as fast as an iPad’s. When your vision and hearing are sharp, your body’s nimble and you’re not flustered by, say, bladder leaks, you’re eager to catch a new play, take a haiku class or learn Esperanto between flugelhorn lessons. But the benefits don’t come just from brain stretching.

Investing in your own get-up-and-go keeps you physically active, too, which showers your cranium with brain chemicals that encourage new links between neurons. That brings us to more brainy news: Daily activity protects your gray cells even if you’re at high risk for dementia. And even if you can’t do much; an easy walk, light housekeeping or puttering in the garden still cuts the threat by 16 percent. Do a little, and soon you can do more. Suddenly, you’ll find that you can do some serious exercise for 20 minutes three times a week, and that yields a bonanza: a bigger hippocampus! Yep, it grows your key memory center.

Meanwhile, clearing up infections (including inflamed gums) and treating arthritis stomps down inflammation that can scratch, dent and ding your arteries and brain cells.

There’s no cure (yet) for Alzheimer’s. But don’t wait. In addition to sweating the small stuff, these proven steps can protect you from this thought-robbing, YOU-erasing disease:

Order the walnut salad, grilled fish with couscous, fruit for dessert, then take that stroll. Cutting back on saturated fat (ice cream, butter, full-fat milk and cheese, red meat) and getting more brain-pampering omega-3s (the fish), monounsaturated fats (the nuts) and enough folate, vitamin B-12 and vitamin E (fresh produce, whole grains) could cut your Alzheimer’s risk by a serious 38 percent. Combine your healthy meal with a half-hour walk, and that number jumps to 60 percent.

Get serious about LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. All three threaten the arteries that deliver oxygen-rich blood to your brain cells. Ignoring them boosts your risk for dementia by up to 46 percent. Make preventing or reversing them a mission.

Enjoy a second mug of coffee. Two mugs a day, or three to six small cups, could lower your risk by 67 percent. Why? Something in coffee helps protect you. What, exactly? We don’t know yet.

If you still smoke, call it quits. Smoking’s the worst for Alzheimer’s. A two-packs-a-day habit boosts your risk 157 percent. If you’ve tried to quit and failed, try again. North Americans, on average, require seven attempts to quit for good.

Pop some good fat. Your brain is 60 percent fat, half of it the type of omega-3 fatty acid we take every day: DHA. People with mild memory decline see their brains become three years younger when they take 900 mg a day for just six months.

Hold the mojito. Moderate drinking (one a day for women, two for men) protects your brain only to a point. If you or a loved one has signs of mild cognitive problems (memory slips, slowed thinking), it’s time to toast with sparkling cider instead of champagne. Just a couple of alcoholic beverages a week doubles dementia risk if there are signs of trouble.