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

In seniors with loss of memory or impaired mental function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research indicates at least some of that worry may be baseless and that these issues may be the consequences of a far more treatable affliction.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually could be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for links to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities related to memory and thought. 56 percent of those examined for mental impairment had minor to extreme loss of hearing. Unexpectedly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

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 may have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested a check-up with a doctor.

The Line is Blurred Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can be easily imagined. For instance, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to have 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 possible that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear in the first place.

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) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number jumps 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 people 75-years or older.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for a person to get treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

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

  • Do I have a problem comprehending words if there is a lot of background sound?
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I constantly need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I avoid social situations because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?

Science has positively found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental capabilities of 639 people who reported no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results found that the participants who had 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 cognitive function.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. The current thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a routine part of your yearly physical, especially for people who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing assessment if you think there may be a possibility you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.

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