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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who deal with the symptoms of loss of memory and diminished mental function. But recent research shows that these issues may be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry may unfounded.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be a product of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities related to memory and thought. Of those they examined for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Surprisingly, 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 back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may 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.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

It’s easy to see how someone could connect mental decline with Alzheimer’s because loss of hearing is not the first thing that an older adult would think of.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? 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 that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear in the first place.

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) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number rises 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.

Though it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a typical part of getting older, people commonly just accept it because they think it’s just a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for a person to get treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get 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. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a problem understanding words if there is a lot of background sound?
  • Do I regularly ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I constantly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?

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

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 test. This should be a part of your normal annual physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you may be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing assessment. 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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