The Surprising Health Risks of Hearing Loss

The findings from a 10 year study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) have reported a link between hearing loss and health risks. The risks include a 50% greater risk of dementia, a 40% greater risk of developing depression and a nearly 30% higher risk of accidental falls. While hearing loss is becoming more prevalent in younger people due to the use of earbuds and noise pollution, it is the elderly population who are more quickly and significantly affected by adverse health risks because of their loss of hearing.

There is a wide range of reasons that account for loss of hearing. Some are genetic while others include noise exposure, medications, head injuries, and infections. While hearing loss is a frustrating experience for those who have it, along with their loved ones, the worst option is to ignore the condition. The sooner your hearing is tested, the better your ability to proactively save yourself from associated health risks due to hearing loss. According to Johns Hopkins University, brain scans indicate that loss of hearing has even been associated with more rapid rates of brain atrophy.

One of the first symptoms of hearing loss is trouble detecting high-pitched or soft sounds. This form of hearing loss is associated with stereocilia, which is the damaging of the fragile hair cells that convert sound waves into electrical signals your brain can understand. For example, high-pitched sounds might include children’s voices while soft sounds include phone conversations or background noise in a restaurant. If you are having any trouble hearing these softer or high-pitched sounds, make an audiologist appointment for a hearing assessment to get a baseline reading. Loss of hearing contributes to social isolation and the longer you wait to address hearing loss, the greater the risk of cognition problems. Meaning, you may hear the words but not be able to process their meaning.

Other than cost, there is no downside to hearing aids anymore. They are discreet, easy to learn how to use, and professionally adjustable over time to compensate for increased hearing loss. Once you factor in the cost of a potential fall, increased risk of dementia, social isolation and depression, the cost of a hearing aid is comparatively minimal. If your hearing loss is profound already, there are cochlear implants, which are devices implanted into the inner ear to stimulate the auditory nerve. These devices can help to restore sound perception in adults with more extreme hearing loss. Your walking motor skills are dependent upon your hearing to pick up subtle cues that help you maintain your balance. Hearing loss mutes these critical cues and makes your brain work harder to pick up sounds, which can then interfere with some of the mental processes needed for safe walking.


While it is not yet proven that treating hearing loss can prevent dementia, unintended falls, or social isolation and depression, it is important to investigate as more than two-thirds of adults over the age of 70 have significant hearing loss that can impact their everyday quality of life. Older adults with hearing problems left untreated also incur substantially higher overall costs of health care. At the ten-year mark of untreated hearing loss in an older adults, the incidence of hospitalization increases by 50% or so. There are also higher rates of hospital readmission and an increased likelihood for emergency room visits when compared to those elderly adults without hearing loss.


Communication between patient and health care provider is also problematic for those adults with hearing loss. A patient has less participation in their health care plan and can often become confused as to their diagnosis and possible courses of action for treatment.  Also, following instructions post appointment or hospital discharge can be problematic. Costs associated with untreated hearing loss have prompted both health care companies and insurers to find better ways to serve patients with hearing loss.


Nearly 27 million Americans age 50 or more have hearing loss while only one in seven uses a hearing aid or implant device. Hearing is often the most overlooked of the five human senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound. Your ability to hear is incredibly important and the longer you put off addressing a hearing problem, the greater the possibility of associated adverse health events. Make good hearing part of your overall plan to age successfully. Like retirement planning and elder law planning, the sooner you address the issue, the better the outcome will be. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

Common Medicines Have Been Linked to Dementia 20-Years After Taking Them

When taking common prescription drugs or popular over-the-counter medicines, most people assume they are safe to consume. Unfortunately, sometimes certain side effects aren’t discovered until many years later. This may be the case with a category of drugs called “anticholinergics.” Anticholinergics are commonly found in medicines that treat allergies, asthma, depression, urinary incontinence and insomnia.

Many medications have at least some anticholinergic aspects, and it’s estimated that up to half of all older adults in the United States are currently taking one or more of these medicines, which are commonly used to treat depression, high blood pressure and incontinence.

New research shows that anticholinergic drugs may be linked to dementia, and shockingly, the risks extend to those who took them as far back as two decades ago.

In early 2018, researchers from the United States and Great Britain published the results of a massive long-term study in the medical journal BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal). The study involved 27 million prescriptions as recorded in the medical records of 40,770 patients over age 65 diagnosed with dementia. Researchers compared those medical records to the records of 283,933 older adults without dementia.

They found a greater incidence of dementia among patients who were prescribed anticholinergic antidepressants, anticholinergic bladder medications and anticholinergic Parkinson’s Disease medications than those who were not prescribed these drugs. The more anticholinergic medications the patients took, in terms of dosage and volume, the more likely they were to develop dementia. The research found this even for those who took anticholinergic drugs 20 years ago and then stopped.

“This study is large enough to evaluate the long-term effect and determine that harm may be experienced years before a diagnosis of dementia is made,” said Dr. Noll Campbell, a co-author of the BMJ study, and researcher at the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Aging. Anticholinergic drugs work by blocking a neurotransmitter, called acetylcholine, from delivering brain signals to muscles affecting the digestive and urinary tracts, lungs and other areas of the body. Acetylcholine, however, is also involved in memory and learning.

Past research demonstrates that people with Alzheimer’s Disease, by far the most common type of dementia, have lower than normal levels of acetylcholine. “Physicians should review all the anticholinergic medications — including over-the-counter drugs — that patients of all ages are taking and determine safe ways to take individuals off anticholinergic medications in the interest of preserving brain health,” said co-author Dr. Malaz Boustani.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. It is never too early to start planning to protect your family and your assets, as well as starting to plan for your long-term care needs. We are here to help you address these challenges and answer your elder law questions whether you have time to plan or are in crisis. Do not hesitate to contact our law office to schedule an appointment.

Life After A Dementia Diagnosis

Many elderly people who are diagnosed with dementia are unprepared for future care. Once this type of diagnosis is received, preparing for the future can no longer be avoided. If you or someone you love has received a dementia diagnosis, begin immediately to discuss and seek guidance for future care. For help in implementing the steps that need to be taken and for developing a plan, seek the guidance of an elder law attorney.


  1. First, take steps to understand the diagnosis. When your elderly loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, be sure to learn as much as possible about the diagnosis and how it will affect the life of your loved one and all those involved. Be sure to go to appointments with the doctors who are testing and diagnosing. Make a list of questions to ask and get input on the long-term care needs of your loved one who has received the dementia diagnosis. If the doctors cannot completely answer all of your concerns, seek resources from reputable sources, such as Dementia Action Alliance. Having this understanding can help with legally planning for your loved one’s care.


  1. Next, assemble family members and discuss how to proceed with care planning. It is important to be unified as a family in order to best meet the needs of your loved one with

dementia. It is important to communicate clearly and to get input from all interested parties. This includes listening to the wishes of your loved one. During this process, look to present and future needs. Make plans together for how these care needs are going to be met. Remember to be patient with other family members. This type of diagnosis affects everyone differently.


  1. Then, get legal and financial plans in place. Deciding on a person who will be authorized to make health care and financial decisions for the dementia patient is one major part of the plan. In addition, plans for how long-term care will be executed and paid for should be put into place. This is where an elder law attorney can be beneficial. The attorney can assess resources, find the best pay to pay for long term care, and help the family to get all the necessary documents in place. A healthcare power of attorney is the person who will make health care decisions when your loved one is no longer capable. A financial power of attorney is another document that is necessary. The agent named in the financial power of attorney will be able to execute financial affairs of your loved one with dementia.


  1. Finally, understand and explore options for long-term care. This can be done through web searches and by meeting with agencies who specialize in dementia care. Care needs can change over time. In the beginning stages of dementia, in-home respite or companion care, home health services, and adult day cares may provide for your loved one’s care needs. However, care needs increase as the disease progresses. This is when facility care may become necessary. It is important to understand the differences between the various types of facilities and what is best for your family’s needs. Some of these facilities include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and memory care facilities. Be prepared with an understanding of long-term care options before the time comes and your family will be able to make the best care and financial decisions for your loved one with dementia.


Once a dementia diagnosis has been given to your loved one, do not waste time in beginning to understand and prepare for the future with the diagnosis. Planning and preparations can take some of the stress from families and allow them to best support their loved one with dementia. Seek proper guidance from attorneys and organizations who have experience with planning for care of a dementia patient. Most importantly, support, love, and respect your loved one with dementia.


If you have a loved one with dementia, please give us a call to discuss how we can help.



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