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What Is the SAGE Screening for Dementia, and Should You Do It at Home?

By Keith Darrow January 16, 2023 Health and Fitness

The SAGE Test is a self-administered exam designed to be taken at home to detect the early signs of cognitive impairment. It is a brief tool that can evaluate your thinking abilities. The questions are designed to evaluate each part of the brain and score brain function in all areas.

SAGE is not designed to diagnose a condition. Its purpose is to inform your local hearing healthcare provider and your primary care physician about the state of your hearing. Knowing your score will help determine if treatment is needed for any mild cognitive impairments that may lead to dementia.

So, What Exactly Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

MCI (mild cognitive impairment) is the medical term for a slight decline in mental abilities. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 20% of individuals over 65 experience MCI. The changes associated with MCI often become visible to either the person themselves or their family members and loved ones.

While these minor changes may not be severe, if not properly treated they could begin to interfere with normal daily life and exacerbate from there.

It is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms as these warning signs can also be caused by certain medications, cerebrovascular disease, and other factors. Sometimes these issues can be managed or reversed easily.

Symptoms may include the following:

  • hearing loss and/or tinnitus
  • forgetting names, dates, or where you have left something
  • brain fog and memory loss
  • lack of focus
  • poor judgment
  • difficulty finding words
  • difficulty following conversations
  • and more…

How Does the SAGE Test Work?

The SAGE Test will ask questions about your reasoning, language, problem-solving and memory skills. A decline in these abilities can be early detectors of mild cognitive impairment. Assessment is done in the following areas:

  • language (picture naming and verbal fluency)
  • problem-solving (executive)
  • memory
  • orientation (month, day, year)
  • reasoning and computation
  • visuospatial (3-dimensional construction and clock drawing)

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Write the names of 12 animals.
  • How many nickels are in 80 cents?

In addition, questions will be asked about your medical history, i.e., “Have you ever suffered a stroke?” The test will address family history of cognitive impairment, current symptoms like balance issues, or problems with memory.

Who Should Take the SAGE Test?

The answer is anyone over the age of 60 who may be concerned or is experiencing issues with language, thinking, problem-solving or memory, even if the symptoms are mild. Managing and treating early is key to living an active life as you age. And feel free to encourage your loved ones to take the test also.

Where Can You Get the Test?

Simply download the SAGE Test, print and complete with pen and paper.

What Are the Next Steps?

Take your results to any hearing healthcare provider listed on ExcellenceInAudiology.org who can give you immediate feedback and help you interpret the results. Note: It is important to be honest on your test for the most accurate results. And remember, there are other factors that could be affecting your cognitive abilities, thus the importance of speaking with your hearing healthcare specialist.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Symptoms Would Identify the Need for Taking the SAGE Test?

  • memory loss
  • losing track of time
  • sudden changes in mood
  • executive impairment (struggle with decision making)
  • impaired sense of direction

What Is One Sample Question on the SAGE Test?

“You are purchasing $13.45 worth of groceries. How much change would you receive back from a $20 bill?”

How Accurate Is This Test?

SAGE test scores are well-thought-out and measured and are a true sign of the symptoms of dementia, indicating that the SAGE test is a trustworthy method of identifying cognitive impairment. 

How Many Points Are Possible on the Test, and What Does That Score Mean?

  • The highest possible score on the SAGE test is 22.
  • Scores between 17 and 22 are inside of the normal cognitive range.
  • Scores of 15 and 16 indicate probable mild memory or thinking impairments.
  • Scores of 14 and lower suggest a more severe memory or thinking disorder. 
  • An evaluation by an audiologist is recommended for anyone scoring below 17.

Until next time, be healthy, happy, and present! For more information, please visit the Excellence in Audiology website.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you heard of the SAGE test? Have you done it? What was your score? Do you think you may want or need to take it?

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Thanks for this!

The Author

Dr. Keith N. Darrow is the founder of Excellence In Audiology. He is a Neuroscientist, Clinical Audiologist and Certified Dementia Practitioner. Dr. Darrow is also a best-selling author, speaker and professor. He is passionate about helping adults prevent decline, actively age and reduce the risks associated with hearing loss. Dr. Darrow can be contacted at keith@excellenceinaudiology.org.

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