Something remarkable occurred to me last week. We have very poor treatment options for cognitive decline and dementia right now. There is a brand-new controversial medication recently FDA approved to help out with Alzheimer disease. This medication however has never been shown to improve cognitive decline or dementia. The medication is costly enough that it may actually bankrupt the Medicare system by itself if it were used and everyone who qualifies. Despite its extreme cost, it may actually have no improvement in quality of life or life expectancy for its patients or their families.
We do have a treatment thus far too often overlooked. Treating existing hearing loss in patients with early cognitive decline actually shows significant improvement in their cognitive decline and the rate further decline. We think this is due to keeping communication areas of the brain stimulated, this keeps patients interactive socially longer, and keeps these neural connections working, growing, and repairing.
There is more data for hearing aids helping dementia patients than medication. That is astounding!
We know that patients with hearing loss and speech discrimination impairment seem to rapidly worsen when they are not fit with hearing aids (not only the ability to hear sound, but more importantly the ability to differentiate sound into words and meaningful phrases).
Unfortunately, every week we still see patients who feel like they are too old for hearing aids. Or maybe family feels like the patient already has some dementia and a hearing aid would not be useful. But in fact hearing aid me be the single most useful medical intervention.
Getting a good hearing test with an audiology or a medical practice is an important step at comprehensive care for your aging loved one.