What's the latest update of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease & why you must know it!
On Jan 4, 2011, the National Alzheimer’s Project Act was signed into law in the United States of America to “address the rapidly increasing Alzheimer’s crisis”. The Act is working toward the national goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025. It also gave rise to a U.S. National Alzheimer’s Plan “for increased spending on scientific research, care, and public engagement”.
On Dec 27, 2021, a 9th update in this national plan was published with the following action item:
(NEW) Action 6.B.2: Increase access to hearing aids for individuals with hearing loss.
Lead Agency: Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Hearing loss has been identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease/Alzheimer’s Disease Related Dementias (AD/ADRD), and recent research has demonstrated that hearing aid use is associated with reduced dementia risk.
What does it mean?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder (causing shrinkage of the brain) that leads to loss of memory and cognitive decline. It worsens gradually over the years, and has no known cure to it.
Recent research by Carle Illinois College of Medicine examined the brain structure of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and hearing loss, and compared the findings with that of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease without hearing loss. They found new evidence that when Alzheimer’s disease is associated with hearing loss, there is a shrinkage of cerebellum and brainstem structures, which are responsible for maintaining balance and movement among several other functions. The study also found that hearing loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease affects hearing in higher frequencies more. High frequency sounds are especially important to understand speech in the presence of background noise.
This means that individuals with hearing loss are at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. When hearing loss has not been addressed effectively, it could also lead to other problems associated with balance and coordination, and motor movements.
There is also ample evidence that suggests that wearing hearing aids can reduce the risk of dementia, and could also possibly reduce the brain shrinkage in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Serious measures are being taken up in countries like the U.S. to effectively intervene and manage Alzheimer’s disease by identifying and addressing hearing loss at an early stage. It has been proposed that hearing aids be accessible to all the citizens of the U.S. by reducing the financial barriers.
With the hopes that hearing health will be a priority in India too, what can we do about it right now?
We can protect our hearing!
We can reduce our exposure to loud noises and sounds. With this year’s World Hearing Day theme being “To hear for life, listen with care!” WHO aims to spread the message of protecting our hearing by listening with care and avoiding exposure to loud sounds.
Get your hearing checked annually after 60 years of age, even if you don’t feel like you have a hearing problem! Early identification of hearing loss helps in early intervention of hearing loss. Addressing hearing loss at an early stage also facilitates effective benefit from hearing aids and improves your quality of life by several folds.
Early treatment of hearing loss not only reduces the risk of dementia and eventually AD, but using hearing aids reduces further brain shrinkage in individuals who have hearing loss and AD. It also decelerates the degeneration of other functions such as balance, coordination and motor skills.
High time you take action, isn’t it? ;)