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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and diminished cognitive function. However, recent research suggests at least some of that concern may be unfounded and that these issues might be the consequences of a far 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 consequence of untreated hearing loss.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely evaluated participant’s functional abilities associated with thought and memory and looked for any connections to potential brain disorders. Of those they screened for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that spanned from mild to severe. 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 noticed when seeing patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many circumstances, 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 said to them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended a check-up with a doctor.

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

It’s easy to see how someone could associate cognitive 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 situation that you can imagine. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What would happen if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? 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 possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

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

Considering the relationship between advanced age with an increased likelihood 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) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number goes up 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 those 75-years or older.

While it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a common trait of getting older, people often just accept it because they believe it’s a part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for someone to seek treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss severe 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:

  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

Science has definitely found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired thought and memory.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any possible misunderstandings between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing screening. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a routine part of your annual physical, particularly for people who are over 65 years old.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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