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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who deal with the symptoms of loss of memory and diminished mental function. However, the latest research suggests at least some of that worry may be unjustified and that these problems could be the consequences of a far more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms some believe to be a product of Alzheimer’s could actually be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully examined participant’s functional abilities associated with memory and thought and searched for any links to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals examined for mental impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when examining patients who are worried that they may have Alzheimer’s. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the visit to the doctor because they noticed memory lapses or diminished attention span.

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

It’s easy to see how a person could link cognitive decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an aging adult would think of.

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. As an example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may actually be a hearing problem that’s progressive and persistent. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. In the meantime, 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.

While it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a typical trait of getting older, people commonly just tolerate it because they believe it’s just a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone 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 really need them.

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

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss severe 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 to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • How often do I ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words if there is a lot of background noise?
  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?

Science has definitely found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. 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 hearing loss at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to diminished thought and memory.

There is one way you may be able to eliminate any potential misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing test. This should be a part of your normal annual physical particularly if you are over 65.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing assessment if you think there is a chance you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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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