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Is it Dementia, Alzheimer's or Hearing Loss?

Is it Dementia, Alzheimer's or Hearing Loss?


A gentleman had been putting off having his hearing tested for many years. Finally after much family frustration he went to a Hearing Specialist. It was determined that the patient was a perfect candidate for help. After being fitted with a pair of open fit hearing instruments the patient went home to try them out. On his follow up visit he was asked how they were working. "Great" said the gentleman. The specialist asked if they helped lower a lot of frustration in the home life. The patient responded, "Well, I didn't tell anyone that I had new hearing instruments but I have changed my will three times". The moral of the story is "you don't know what you're missing until your listening".

Listening is a trained response that starts developing the moment the hearing pathways and the brain are connected during pregnancy. We have heard stories about expectant mothers who read aloud to their unborn child every day. When the child was born there was an increased ability for the child to read at a younger age. Why?

There are basically two types of hearing senses, Sensorineural or nerve type hearing and Conductive or vibrational. When we record a message on our phone answering machine and play it back the voice recorded does not sound like our own voice. The reason being is that the conductive component of your hearing (vibration that resonates within you) is missing. The only part we are hearing is what the Sensorineural component picks up. The brain is well aware that something is missing and makes us say "that does not sound like me".The story of the Mom reading to the unborn child could be the result of the conductive component of the unborn baby processing Mom's conductive component.

Hearing is the intricate, delicate and sophisticated structure of the hearing process and how the brain reacts and adapts over time to sound input. Loud sounds destroy the fine nerve/hair follicles, permanently destroying the hearing and decoding process.

What most people do not know is that just the opposite of exposure to loud sounds is true when it comes to doing permanent hearing damage. When normal volume of sounds are not loud enough for someone with a hearing loss to detect, then the fine nerve/hair follicles never get stimulated and in a sense atrophy. The old adage of "use it or lose it" applies. Compound this condition with the fact that a slow hearing loss is like having a slow stroke. The symptoms are so subtle and undetected. Just like not walking or moving around you become stiff over time and usually the stiffness is directly proportional to the amount of inactive time.

Research at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging found that people with severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia than one with normal hearing. In September, The Better Hearing Institute reported that for every 10 decibels of hearing loss the extra risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increased by 20 percent. Research at the University of Pennsylvania showed a relationship between hearing ability, cognitive function/brain activity and brain volume. More brain activity maintains more grey matter in the auditory cortex of the brain.

On a more hopeful note, hearing instruments not only improve the quality and safety of life but may actually help maintain the physical size and structure of the brain. As hearing declines with age, intervention is required to improve hearing, preserve the brain and maintain brain volume.

When is the last time you had your hearing checked? It's worth your piece of mind to talk to a Hearing Specialist and have a full hearing evaluation.


Written by Steve Mann;

Ear to Hear--NYS Licensed Hearing Aid Dispensers
2064 Lake Road, Elmira
607.734.3329 WWW.EARTOHEAR.US