By Dr. Keith Darrow, PhD, Hearing & Balance Centers of New England
Free seminar on “The Neuroscience of Tinnitus, Dementia, and Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Brain Health” to be held April 23 at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston. Information at end of column.
Many doctors don’t screen for dementia, but that is soon going to change, and it all starts here in Massachusetts.
We are used to the routine things that our doctors do and say during our appointments. Nearly 90 percent of us have our blood pressure checked every time we go to our doctor. Our physicians are also in the routine of checking our other vitals and asking us questions about our general health. Nearly 70 percent of us are screened for visual impairment. BUT… the data is shocking when it comes to screenings for dementia: only 16 percent of patients are ever even asked about concerns of memory loss. This has to change.
There appear to be several reasons that doctors may avoid screening for dementia, especially since there is not much that can be done about it. Currently, there are no Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) approved treatments for dementia. Thus, many doctors tend to shy away from giving such a life-altering diagnosis when no treatments are available. There has even been significant pushback from many in the medical community against commercially available screening tools for genetic markers of Alzheimer’s (i.e. 23andMe now offers a health screening that will indicate genetic markers for Alzheimer’s disease).
Change is coming. Massachusetts is leading the way in how dementia care is provided to patients. In 2018, a first-of-its-kind law was passed in Massachusetts that requires all doctors, nurses, and physician assistants to get training in Alzheimer’s diagnosis and care.
The law is intended, in part, to address a shocking statistic from an earlier survey of Medicare beneficiaries: Half of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease have not been diagnosed, and half of those with a diagnosis have not been told about it. Yikes!
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston is developing a program to collaborate with primary care doctors in managing the illness. In addition to training, the Massachusetts law requires physicians to disclose an Alzheimer’s diagnosis to the patient or family member.
Perhaps it was the report from the European Dementia Commission report from July 2017 that has provoked changed. In this report, it was indicated that nearly 35 percent of all dementia cases are considered preventable. The report also included a list of modifiable lifestyle factors that can help people to prevent the dementia. While many lifestyle factors, including reducing obesity, reducing cardiovascular disease and increasing social and physical activity, are already part of a major health push in our society; what caught many in the medical community by surprise was that the early treatment of hearing loss was the most modifiable lifestyle factor for preventing dementia.
These changes to our laws reflect a growing recognition that even though Alzheimer’s is fatal, people can live with it for a decade or more. Those who have been diagnosed, as well as their families, deserve to know that, as well as knowing how much can be done to improve the quality of those years, especially when you start early.
Visit www.DrDarrowReports.com to read more about the diseases of dementia and to learn about lifestyle factors to help prevent, and possibly slow down, these diseases.
For more information call 508-794-3542 or visit hearingandbalancene.com.
Dr. Darrow will be hosting a special seminar, “The Neuroscience of Tinnitus, Dementia, and Impact of Hearing Loss on Your Brain Health” on Tuesday, April 23, at 6 p.m., at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston, Mass.
In this seminar attendees will learn about the treatments available to reduce the ringing in their ears, reducing dementia risk and restoring hearing clarity. They will also learn how new solutions with NeuroTechnology ® are proven to support brain function, including working memory, selective attention and processing speed.
The seminar is free but an RSVP is required at www.TinnitusDementiaHearing.com or by calling 508-731-8270.