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

An underlying 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 at least some of that worry might be unfounded and that these problems could be the result of a much more treatable condition.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s may actually be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully analyzed participant’s functional capabilities related to thought and memory and looked for any connections to potential brain disorders. Of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that spanned from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed memory lapses or shortened attention.

The Line is Blurred Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Imagine a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. Case in point, 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 try to have them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s likely that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

Considering the correlation between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older may be having these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number jumps significantly 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.

While it’s true that gradual hearing loss is a normal part of aging, people commonly just accept it because they think it’s a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for loss of hearing. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

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

  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem understanding words?
  • Do I always need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I always ask people to talk louder or slower?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study studied 639 individuals who noted no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The research discovered that the people who experienced worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to get dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

There is one way you might be able to avoid any possible 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 particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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