This month draws our attention to Alzheimer’s disease, a cognitive disorder affecting many people, yet many of the underlying causes remain unknown. Although there is much left to learn about the disorder, a surprising connection has been discovered between hearing loss and dementia. In honor of this month of awareness, it is important to look toward the growing number of treatments available for the condition. The Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) provides a helpful description of the range of treatment options, including treatments for memory, behavior, and sleep, as well as alternative treatments that many people have found effective. Along with the treatments for Alzheimer’s, hearing loss can also be treated. It is important to remember that although these two conditions are connected to one another, treatment options exist for each.
Among the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, memory is most commonly treated with medication and often with great success. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s may experience trouble remembering names for people and things, as well as trouble remembering the locations of objects and the nature of time, such as the season, date, or time of day. Treatments in the early stage such as cholinesterase inhibitors can help delay the progress of Alzheimer’s, adding to the time of independent or assisted living. Once an Alzheimer’s patient has reached the middle stage of the disease, memory medication such as memantine can help with the performance of everyday activities. Once an Alzheimer’s sufferer has reached the late stage, memory medications are no longer found to be effective, though other treatments remain.
Alzheimer’s disease is commonly accompanied by behavioral changes. In the early and middle stages, many will experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, irritability, or even paranoia. In order to treat these problems, a wide range of treatments exists. Removing the triggering situations can help. Some become frustrated with lapses of memory, and removing these events can relieve mental distress. Others experience these conditions when faced with their need to rely on others, and triggering experiences can be avoided in some cases. Medication can be prescribed to relieve these behavioral symptoms, but non-drug treatments exist, as well. Environmental changes and creating a comfortable living space can help immensely. Finding the right conditions for restful sleep can help, as well. When medication is necessary, a psychiatrist can observe the particular symptoms and prescribe the right medication for a particular Alzheimer’s patient’s profile of behavioral distress, ranging from anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants to anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals. In each case, it is important to remember that the behavioral symptoms are not personal and to remain patient with the loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease.
In the symptomatic chain for a sufferer of Alzheimer’s disease, the lack of restful sleep can exacerbate other conditions. Some non-drug solutions include abiding by a sleep schedule that affords the right amount of time, encouraging daily exercise, and aligning sleep with the natural clock of the sun. Medications can help create restful sleep, as well, including anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and sleep-specific medications or “sleeping pills.” These medications can induce restful sleep that will alleviate some of the other cognitive and behavioral conditions experienced as a part of Alzheimer’s disease.
Although their effects have been unproven in traditional Western medical settings, many herbs, vitamins, dietary supplements, and minerals have been found to be helpful. Herbs such as ginkgo biloba, minerals such as coral calcium, or dietary supplements as simple as coconut oil and omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful for a sufferer of Alzheimer’s to great effect. Though these treatments may not be prescribed by a doctor, they can be a treatment option with few side effects.
Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease
Although the connection is still being explored, hearing loss is linked to many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that hearing loss is easily treated through assistive technology, reducing the cognitive load that requires the brain to put together fragments of sound into meaningful speech. With this puzzle solved, the mind is able to focus on other things with more clarity. Getting a hearing test and consulting with us at South Shore Hearing Center is the first step on the path to treatment of hearing loss with a possible relationship to Alzheimer’s disease, as well.