November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month! If you or a loved one is struggling to make sense of Alzheimer’s, this month is the time to learn more about the disease, its symptoms, and what you can do to manage it. When November was declared National Alzheimer’s Month in 1983, around 2 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s. Since then, that number has nearly tripled, with roughly 5.4 million people in the U.S. dealing with the disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, and the names are often used almost interchangeably. It’s a degenerative brain disease caused by an unhealthy growth of protein cells in the brain. Called plaques and tangles, these cells block neural pathways and disrupt normal brain function. When your brain cells aren’t able to communicate, they start to break down, and as Alzheimer’s progresses, the brain actually shrinks.
While researchers are working tirelessly to learn more about this disease, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s, and even treatments to slow the progress of the disease are not very effective. In fact, along with cardiovascular disease and cancer, Alzheimer’s is one of the leading causes of death among older adults in the U.S.
Recognizing Alzheimer’s Disease
The signs of Alzheimer’s Disease are subtle at first, and some people have the disease for several years before they are aware of it. At first, you may think you’re simply being a bit absentminded or forgetful, and may misplace your keys or forget an appointment. Soon you’ll start to struggle with the trademark signs of dementia, and begin to experience memory loss. You might forget a recent memory, like meeting your friend for coffee last week. But this will soon progress to major memory loss of all recent events, as your brain isn’t able to store these new memories. As Alzheimer’s affects more of your brain, your long-term memories will begin to corrode as well, and you might forget important moments from your past, or fail to recognize your friends and loved ones.
Finally, near the final stages of the disease, so much of the brain has been affected that the tasks of daily life become a challenge, and you’ll have trouble eating, getting dressed, or even speaking.
The Links Between Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss
What does all this have to do with hearing loss? While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, there are ways you can slow the progress of the disease, and one of the best ways to reduce your chances of developing dementia is to treat your hearing loss.
Living with untreated hearing loss leads to rapid cognitive decline, as parts of your brain normally being used stop receiving input from the ears. The auditory nerve, as well as the auditory centers of the brain, don’t receive enough stimulation to stay healthy, and this leads to cell loss and death. These parts of the brain begin to deteriorate in a tragic case of use it or lose it, and this weakening of the brain paves the way for the growth of plaques and tangles in the brain.
Treating Hearing Loss
Keeping your brain healthy is all about staying active, and treating hearing loss is the best way to make sure your brain is exercising every day. To reduce your chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease experts recommend learning a new skill or hobby, or learning another language. This will challenge your brain, strengthen existing neural pathways, and even build new connections in the brain, reducing cognitive decline and keeping your brain healthy.
If you have hearing loss, you know even normal social interactions can be a challenge, let alone learning something new. You might be embarrassed that you can’t hear what’s being said, or choose to say home rather than risk answering inappropriately or making your friends uncomfortable when you mishear what they’re saying. Treating hearing loss will keep your brain active and healthy, interact more with friends and loved ones, and give you the motivation to try new things.
Ready to do the right thing for your hearing health and your brain? This November, visit us at Glendora Hearing to find out how a pair of hearing devices can change your life, and save your brain.