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

In seniors who have loss of memory or impaired cognitive function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research suggests at least some of that concern may be baseless and that these problems might be the result of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms that actually might be the results of neglected hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought. 56 percent of people evaluated for cognitive impairment had minor to extreme hearing loss. Shockingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner said to them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested a check-up with a physician.

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

It’s easy to understand how a person could link mental decline with Alzheimer’s because loss of hearing is not the first thing that an aging adult would think of.

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can be easily imagined. For example, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’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 know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. But it might really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Considering the relationship between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age could be experiencing these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling 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.

Even though it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a typical trait of getting older, people commonly just accept it because they believe it’s a part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for somebody to get treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.

Do You Have 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 difficulty hearing consonants?
  • Do I regularly ask others to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I avoid social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is difficult?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background sound?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental capabilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results discovered that the people who had 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 might be able to prevent any potential confusion between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing assessment. The current thought among the health care community is that this assessment should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for those who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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