Nov 12, 2016

The Impact of Hearing Loss on Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Diminished hearing can quickly isolate a person. It’s exhausting to focus on the minutia of a conversation just to ensure processing the important points. It takes concentration, focus and considerable energy!


Alzheimer's can take its toll even on the best of Alzheimer's caregivers.

By Elaine C Pereira
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My mother, Elizabeth Ward whose story is profiled in my memoir I Will Never Forget, died from Alzheimer’s in 2011.

If the ravages of brain cell gobbling Alzheimer’s Disease weren’t enough, she was also stone deaf from Meniere’s Disease.


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Meniere’s is a disorder of the inner ear causing debilitating vertigo, hearing loss often with complete deafness and tinnitus or ringing in the ears. I’m told that she was the first person in the US with Meniere’s, circa 1990, to receive a cochlear implant.


My mother adapted well to her new device, compliant with all of therapeutic exercises and practice worksheets. Although her hearing was never “normal” - she described the chime of the doorbell as a click-click - Mom was functional in very small group settings.


The Social Butterfly

Despite compromised hearing, my mother earnestly maintained a social presence.
  • Music was especially difficult to absorb but she went to concerts anyway.
  • Conversation was an effort but Mom participated.
  • Parties and large group social gatherings were an auditory nightmare but she was there.
  • Phone dialogue was especially difficult and unreliable so Mom got a CapTel caption phone.
  • My mother missed as much as she heard but she engaged socially anyway.

Diminished hearing can quickly isolate a person. It’s exhausting to focus on the minutia of a conversation just to ensure processing the important points. It takes concentration, focus and considerable energy!

A Daughter's Story of Her Mother's Arduous and Humorous Journey through Dementia

But depending on the medical cause, it’s unlikely that even a significant hearing loss is a direct causal link to Alzheimer’s. Rather, the hearing loss leads to social withdrawal known to be a contributing factor to dementia.

It’s important to note that there are neurological conditions that cause dementia including stroke, brain infections and traumatic brain injuries. My father suffered a moderate stroke resulting in impaired mobility, self-care, speech/hearing and awareness. But unlike Alzheimer’s that, as it advances causes more disorientation and confusion, the adverse effects of a stroke typically level off as it did with my dad.


Be Social, Stall Alzheimer’s. No excuses!

Clearly more research is needed but being socially active with good health habits is strongly theorized to stall Alzheimer’s and I believe was a factor to my mother being late onset.

Try these recommendations:
  1. If you need hearing aides, then use them. Honestly your real friends don’t care and probably need them also. Set a good example, be a good role model and wear yours.
  2. Make a “play date” with your friends. Go to lunch, dinner, concerts, etc. Just get out there and be social. Your real friends don’t care what you all do together for the most part, as long as it is something!
  3. Brain games may help maintain good eye-hand coordination, but use them in moderation. They are socially isolating because you do them by yourself. Likewise, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc.
  4. Consider whether getting a pet is a good fit for you. It is very well documented that the interaction with a pet, talking, petting, being active with, is positive across many spheres.

How to Get Answers To Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia


Elaine C Pereira donates from every copy of I Will Never Forget to help support Alzheimer’s research. "Help Me Help Others" Buy a Book!

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