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

In seniors who have loss of memory or impaired mental function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that concern might be unfounded and that these issues may be the consequences of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be the result of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely assessed participant’s functional abilities associated with thought and memory and looked for any links to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of those evaluated for mental impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or shortened attention.

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

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

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. As an example, 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? Would you try to have 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 likely that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

Given the relationship between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age may be experiencing these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. 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.

While it’s true that progressive loss of hearing is a common trait of getting older, people commonly just tolerate it because they believe it’s a part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for a person to get treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

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

If you’ve thought about whether 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • Do I have a problem understanding words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no mental 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 experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired thought and memory.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your normal yearly physical especially if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing assessment. Make an appointment for a hearing exam 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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