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 reduced cognitive function. However, recent research shows that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry may unjustified.

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 consequence of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for links to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities related to thought and memory. Of those they evaluated for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Surprisingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when examining patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

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

Envision a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask them to repeat it? If you still aren’t certain what they said, is there any possible way you would know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s likely that some people could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. But it may really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

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

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 just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number rises 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 progressive hearing loss is a common trait of getting older, people often just accept it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Could be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • Do I try to avoid social situations because having a conversation in a loud room is hard?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I always ask others to speak louder or slower?

Science has definitely found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study studied 639 individuals who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The results revealed that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. This should be a part of your regular yearly physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing evaluation. Make an appointment for a hearing test 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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