Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hearing Loss and Dementia

Untreated Hearing loss Linked to Increased Likelihood of Dementia

A study examining the link between dementia onset and hearing loss showed a concerning connection. Published by the Archives of Neurology, The U.S. National Institute on Aging  study showed more than 35 percent of dementia risk in patients older than 60 was linked to hearing loss.

The cognitive and hearing tests were given over a four-year period and monitored more than 600 patients for signs of dementia. At the conclusion of the study, 58 patients were diagnosed with dementia. The researchers then cross-referenced their data and found risk for a degenerative cognitive disorder increased with moderate to severe hearing loss. They reported for every additional loss of 10 decibels of hearing capacity the risk for Alzheimer’s jumped 20 percent.

The study suggests several theories for this correlation but insists more research is needed to find the exact relationship.  Hearing loss might result from damage to nerve cells," Dr. Richard B. Lipton said. "That means damage to the hearing organ and inner ear structure called the cochlea, and the hair cells that pick up the pattern of vibration the sound produces in the ear. And if there's damage to the neurons that mediate hearing, that may be a kind of marker for similar damage to nerve cells involved in memory and higher cognition.”

Lipton also suggests social isolation accompanying hearing loss could lead to less cognitive engagement – a vital interaction to protect against dementia:  “And that would mean that the loss of cognitive stimulation could itself contribute to the risk for Alzheimer's," Lipton said.

Regardless, this new study shows dementia and Alzheimer’s has less to do with chronological age and is encouraging researchers to focus on biological age and the overall health and lifestyle of patients who show early signs of cognitive decline. Your first step to battling Alzheimer’s should be to schedule a hearing test.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Migraine-associated Dizziness

The most common cause of dizziness overall is migraine. The most recent research data indicate that approximately 60-80% of all patients reporting dizziness, in particular without hearing loss, have migraine-associated dizziness.

Migraine-associated dizziness is one of the most under recognized conditions in medicine today. It can occur at any age and dizzy symptoms may occur before, during and/or after migraine pain, or may occur without headache pain at all. Therefore, some people who have had a history of migraines but no longer have the headache pain of migraine, may still have dizziness from the same underlying cause. One very common story that we hear is that someone used to have migraines years or even decades ago, but no longer has headaches at all, and is now experiencing dizziness, attacks of vertigo and/or disequilibrium. Approximately 90% of those who claim to have “sinus” headaches are actually suffering from migraine, in particular if they notice headache and/ or dizzy symptoms associated with change in weather or other identifiable triggers.

Common symptoms of migraine-associated dizziness:

  • Sense of lightheadedness and imbalance, typically worse in the morning Sensation of floating and that the head and eyes are not moving together
  • Visual motion or activities that require visual stimulation can be particularly bothersome
  • Light and/or noise sensitivity may be present
  • Looking for items at the grocery store or being in large, open buildings is often difficult
  • Feeling dizzy or off balance with walking, bending over or with quick head turns

Diagnosis of migraine-associated dizziness is usually made after ruling out other causes of dizziness such as BPPV, Meniere’s disease, or vestibular neuritis.

Treatment for this common cause of dizziness requires elimination of any trigger factors that might be exacerbating migraine symptoms, such as dietary triggers, skipping meals, stress, inadequate sleep, use of nicotine, etc. Often, medications that prevent migraines are prescribed. Physical Therapy/Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy can help with balance issues and motion sensitivity once the headaches are under control.