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

In seniors who have memory loss or impaired cognitive function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But current research indicates that these problems may be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry might baseless.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually might be the results of untreated hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully assessed participant’s functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought and looked for any links to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of those assessed for mental impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Astonishingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when examining patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason behind 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 an appointment with a doctor.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

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

Envision a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s possible that some people could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. But it may really be a hearing problem that’s progressive and persistent. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

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 debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, 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 those 75-years or older.

Though it’s true that progressive loss of hearing is a common trait of aging, people often just accept it because they think it’s a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get 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. Consider the following questions:

  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Do I regularly ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I try to avoid social situations because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

Science has definitely found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental capabilities of 639 people who noted no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research discovered 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 thought.

There is one way you might be able to eliminate any possible misunderstandings between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing test. This should be a part of your regular annual physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today