Little-known first dementia symptoms – hearing loss to vision problems

Getting a diagnosis of dementia can give you a better understanding of the condition and what to expect. Timely diagnosis can also help you make important decisions about treatment, support and care

Hearing loss is a sign of dementia
Hearing loss and visual impairment could be early signs of dementia, warn researchers

Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.

Dementia is a prevalent disease affecting a growing number of the ageing population.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia.

There is currently no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but by recognising the early symptoms, a person can undergo earlier treatment.

The symptoms of sight and hearing loss can be similar to some of the early signs of dementia and could be two lesser-known warning symptoms about your risk.

Early signs of dementia may also include personality changes and a loss of initiative


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One study published in BMJ looked at the impact of hearing loss and cognition decline in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

The research found that hearing loss and vestibular decline – the linking system between your ear and brain that helps with balance – both result in a decreasing cognitive function.

The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements.

When the brain sends the wrong signals to the balance system, it can lead to severe headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light or sound, ringing in the ears and hearing loss.

Of course, as one ages, so hearing and visual impairments become commonplace.

In fact, an estimated 33% of individuals aged 70 and older are affected by hearing loss and 18% affected by vision impairment, according to researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association.

They further noted: “Because the incidence and prevalence of these sensory impairments increase with age, hearing and vision loss will affect a growing proportion of the population.

“In addition, several prospective studies have found that hearing and visual impairments in older adults independently increase the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.”

Having trouble with memory can impact on sufferers’ day-to-day abilities


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Dr Jonathan Stevenson said: “Difficulty hearing speech in background noise is one of the most common problems for people with age-related hearing impairment.

“Studies are now investigating its association with dementia in a large population.”

A number of studies have suggested that hearing impairment could also have damaging psychological effects too as they could lead to social isolation and depression – other risk factors for dementia.

Other early symptoms of dementia

  • Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Impaired judgement
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood and behaviour
  • Changes of personality
  • Loss of initiative

How dementia happens

The condition is caused by damage to the brain cells.

This damage further interferes with the ability for the brain cells to communicate with each other.

The result is a drastic change in the way a person thinks, behaves and feels.

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