Woman with hearing loss concerned about Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

In seniors with loss of memory or diminished mental function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research shows that these issues could be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the worry might unfounded.

According to a study that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be the result of Alzheimer’s might actually be a consequence of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely examined participant’s functional capabilities related to memory and thought and searched for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of people examined for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Surprisingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many circumstances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended a check-up with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

While hearing loss might not be the first thing an aging adult considers when faced with potential mental decline, it’s easy to understand how one can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Think of a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? Is there any way you would know that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

It’s not surprising that people of an advanced age are experiencing these problems given the correlation between aging and the likelihood of having hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number rises dramatically for older age brackets, coming in at 8.5 percent for 55- to 64-year-olds; 25 percent for 65- to 74-year-olds; and 50 percent for those 75-years or older.

Progressive loss of hearing, which is a part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever truly wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss severe enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • How often do I ask people to talk slower or louder?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Do I stay away from social situations because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

It’s important to point out that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired thought and memory.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this assessment should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for those who are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you might be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing examination. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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