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Parkinson’s Awareness Week – 10th – 16th April

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disease caused by a loss of nerve cells, which limits movement. It’s thought to affect around 145,000 people in the UK.

The charity Parkinson’s UK states that:

• The disease develops when cells in the brain stop working properly and are lost over time; these cells produce a chemical called dopamine
• Symptoms begin when the brain can’t make enough dopamine to control movement
• There are three main symptoms: tremor, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness

In Parkinson’s Awareness Week this year, Parkinson’s UK is supporting two activities: Poems for Parkinson’s and Light Up Blue for Parkinson’s.

“Not enough people understand what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s, which is why Parkinson’s Awareness is so important. It’s an opportunity for the Parkinson’s community to raise awareness of the condition and to come together to share their experiences and talk about Parkinson’s” – Paul Jackson-Clark, Director of Fundraising and Engagement at Parkinson’s UK

But did you know that hearing loss is linked to Parkinson’s, and in particular, cognitive decline as we age? Hearing loss has been found to be almost twice as likely to affect elderly people with Parkinson’s disease. Loss of hearing can affect people in many ways but it can especially have an impact on their cognitive decline.

A 2012 study at the University of Naples in Italy found that 106 out of 118 patients with Parkinson’s had age related hearing loss in one or both ears. A study of patients with ‘normal hearing’ resulted in a lower figure.

More recently, scientists in London have found that hearing loss can be an early warning sign of Parkinson’s disease. Their research, published in JAMA Neurology, focussed on the healthcare records of people who lived in east London between 1990 and 2018. Researchers from Queen Mary University of London discovered that tremor associated with Parkinson’s appeared up to ten years and memory problems five years, before diagnosis. Conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and Type 2 diabetes, (both more prevalent in Asian communities), were associated with increased odds of developing Parkinson’s, the study found:

“Our results uncovered novel risk factors and early symptoms: epilepsy and hearing loss. Whilst previous research has hinted at the association, such as epilepsy being more prevalent in Parkinson’s patients than in the general population, more research is now needed for us to fully understand the relationship. It’s important that primary care practitioners are aware of these links and understand how early the symptoms of Parkinson’s can appear.” –  Dr Cristina Simonet, Neurologist and PhD student at QMUL

“If we’re able to diagnose Parkinson’s earlier, we have a real opportunity to intervene early and offer treatments that could improve quality of life for patients. This study confirms that many of the symptoms and early features of Parkinson’s can occur long before a diagnosis.” – Dr Alastair Noyce, Reader in Neurology and Neuroepidemiology at QMUL

People with hearing loss:

• Don’t participate in conversations and tend to limit their social interaction
• Use more cognitive energy to understand the sounds that they are hearing
• Often forget what they have heard

If you or a loved one experience any of these situations, it’s best to have a hearing assessment with a qualified healthcare professional. Improving your ability to hear by using hearing aids could have many positive impacts on your well-being and can help prevent cognitive decline.

If you would like some advice on managing hearing loss or to book an appointment for a hearing assessment, please call 01223 661399.

Find out more about Parkinson’s Awareness Week 2022 here

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