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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who struggle with the symptoms of loss of memory and impaired cognitive function. However, recent research indicates that these issues could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the worry may unfounded.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms that actually might be the consequences of neglected hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to thought and memory. Out of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In many circumstances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner said to them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended an appointment with a doctor.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Loss of Hearing is Blurred

It’s easy to understand how someone could associate cognitive decline with Alzheimer’s because loss of hearing is not the first thing that an aging adult would think of.

Think of a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. As an example, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you ask them to repeat it? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. But it might actually be a hearing problem that’s progressive and persistent. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

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

Given the connection between advanced age with an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age may be having these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number goes up considerably 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.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a common part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for hearing loss. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever wondered if you have hearing loss extreme enough to need to be addressed like millions of other Americans, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I have a problem understanding words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • How often do I ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?

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 followed 639 individuals who noted no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the loss of hearing at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to diminished thought and memory.

There is one way you might be able to avoid any potential misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. This should be a part of your normal annual physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing assessment. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.

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