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

In seniors with loss of memory or diminished cognitive function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, recent research suggests that these problems could be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the worry may unfounded.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually could be the results of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought. Of those they evaluated for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that spanned from mild to severe. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those people.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In many circumstances, the reason behind 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 physician.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

It’s easy to see how someone could link mental decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an aging adult would consider.

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can be easily imagined. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t sure what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Gradual Loss of Hearing is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it

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) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. 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 people 75-years or older.

Though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a typical part of getting older, people commonly just tolerate it because they think it’s just a part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for somebody to seek treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I regularly need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear them?

It’s important to point out that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study studied 639 individuals who reported no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The results discovered that the participants who had worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your regular annual physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing assessment if you think there is a possibility you may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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