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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of loss of memory and reduced cognitive function. However, current research indicates that these issues could be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the concern might baseless.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually could be the results of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely examined participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to thought and memory and searched for any links to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of people examined for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Astonishingly, only about 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 support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are worried that they may have Alzheimer’s. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they observed memory lapses or diminished attention span.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Think of a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? 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 line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

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

Given the link between advanced age with an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older could be experiencing these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, 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.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a common part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they really need them.

Is it Possible That You Could Have Hearing Loss?

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

  • 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 an issue comprehending words?
  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I constantly need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?

Science has positively found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who noted no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the hearing loss at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to weakened thought and memory.

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

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing examination if you think there may be a chance you might be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

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