In January 2014 Hearing Review magazine, Denis Hampton, Ph.D., the editor of Audiology Hearing HealthCare news, reviewed recent studies about the links between dementia and hearing loss. He stated that there is a strong correlation between the two but there are few data specifically on the effects of hearing aid use on dementia. He did not specifically mention Alzheimer’s but other studies have linked that disease to hearing loss.
Can better hearing with hearing aids reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? I do not know the answer. There is no proof that they do. However, I pose a different question. Will hearing aids improve the quality of life for them and their family? Yes they will and I say that with 100% certainty if you consider this case study.
Mrs. S and her husband consulted me for her hearing evaluation in our Brooksville, Florida office. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and he questioned whether her hearing could be somehow affecting her. During my interview and exam she seemed clueless. He had to answer most all of my questions even though I directed them to her. I thought that she may have an advanced stage of the disease because of her behavior.
My exam revealed a mild moderate hearing loss that could cause a social handicap depending on a person’s lifestyle, motivation, and cognitive ability to compensate. I recommended a trial with hearing aids and they agreed.
On the next visit I fitted her with Starkey hearing aids. When I activated the aids a light seemed to turn on inside of her but it was quickly shaded by confused distraction. I convinced her husband that she should wear the aids during waking hours unless they hurt her ears.
At one week follow up I was caught off guard by the transformation. She was alert and engaged in our conversation. She quickly responded to my questions. She joked with her husband and I saw him glow with happiness. His wife had returned to him from some unknown place and I witnessed the benefit that hearing aids can give a patient and their family when dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
I followed her stable progress for the next year until one of my associates assumed her care.