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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and diminished mental function. However, recent research shows that at least some of that worry might be unjustified and that these issues may be the result of a far more treatable condition.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually might be the consequences of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully examined participant’s functional abilities associated with thought and memory and looked for any links to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals examined for mental impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Shockingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals 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 noticed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or shortened attention.

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

While hearing loss may not be the first thing an aging adult considers when dealing with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to understand how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can be easily imagined. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? If you still aren’t certain what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. 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 link between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be having these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number goes up 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 those 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a common part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they really need them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

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

  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem understanding words?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?
  • Do I regularly ask others to speak louder or slower?
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?

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

There is one way you may be able to eliminate any potential confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing assessment. This should be a part of your regular annual physical especially if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing examination. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.

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