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

In seniors with memory loss or impaired cognitive function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, current research shows that these issues could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry may unfounded.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities related to thought and memory. 56 percent of those assessed for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. In many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the visit to the doctor because they noticed memory lapses or shortened attention.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

While hearing loss might not be the first thing an older adult considers when faced with potential mental decline, it’s easy to understand how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Think of a situation where your 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 didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t sure what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it might actually be a hearing problem that’s progressive and ongoing. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

Gradual Loss of Hearing is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it

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 just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number jumps 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.

Gradual hearing loss, which is a part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes about 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 actually get them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

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

  • Do I always ask others to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words if there is a lot of background noise?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?

It’s important to note that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. 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 study found that the worse the loss of hearing at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired memory and thought.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any possible misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. This should be a part of your regular yearly physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing evaluation if you think there may be a possibility you may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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