Hearing problems and cognitive disorders

January 26, 2015

Problèmes cognitifs

Cognitive disorders are a set of symptoms that include memory and perception problems, and difficulty with problem solving. While these symptoms may be indicative of certain mental disorders, they are above all signs of brain injury. They occur to varying degrees in degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, senile or alcoholic dementia, as well as in cases of head trauma with brain damage.

Hearing problems and their impact on the cognitive health of elderly people are often poorly understood. Starting at age 75, deaf patients are at 2.5 times higher risk of developing a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, which can lead to difficulty understanding and interfere with social activities.

According to a clinical study of 319 respondents age 75 and over (average age 85) who had been living in institutions for at least a month, slightly less than half (42 %) suffered from presbycusis (age-related progressive hearing loss) leading to discomfort in social situations, while 61% presented cognitive disorders.* The older the patient, the more prevalent the hearing and cognitive disorders.

The memory feeds on information gathered by all the senses, particularly hearing. If hearing falters—as with presbycusis—the memory receives less new information and new knowledge to be processed. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, the initial symptoms specifically involve recent memories: those affected forget whether they have turned off the stove, whether the nurse or mail carrier came by that morning, or whether their son or daughter called an hour ago.

Dementia: A common disease in people who are hard of hearing

Dementia is much more common in people with hearing impairment (occurring in 52 % of patients with normal hearing and 72 % of those who are hard of hearing). In other words, the better your hearing, the less likely you are to suffer cognitive or behavioural disorders such as withdrawal, isolation, or depression.

A number of symptoms experienced by people with cognitive disorders are similar to behaviours linked to hearing loss. For example, they have a hard time understanding what is being said around them and must constantly ask people to repeat themselves as their short-term memory falters or they have trouble following conversations.

Individuals with hearing loss wait an average of 10 years before seeking help. The only known way to compensate for hearing loss like presbycusis is the use of hearing aids. To be fully effective and reduce or eliminate the character and behavioural disorders that can arise from an untreated hearing problem, hearing aids must be worn when the first signs of impaired hearing are detected.

If you suspect you or someone you know may be experiencing hearing loss, consult an audioprosthetist.
References :
* Study (AcouDem) conducted at the initiative of GRAP (Groupe de Recherche Alzheimer Presbyacousie) between August 2004 and February 2007.
– http://www.laborenard.fr/media/pdf/acoudem_siemens.pdf
– https://destinationsante.com/un-lien-etroit-entre-surdite-et-declin-cognitif.html
– docs/maladie_dalzheimer_troubles_de_laudition_et_appareillage_auditif_une_revue_
– http://sante.lefigaro.fr/actualite/2014/01/31/21924-perte-daudition-accelere-declin-cognitif