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

In seniors who have loss of memory or diminished cognitive function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, recent research indicates at least some of that concern may be baseless and that these issues may be the consequences of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a study that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be the result of Alzheimer’s may actually be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully analyzed participant’s functional abilities associated with thought and memory and looked for any links to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of people evaluated for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Surprisingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the study. In many circumstances, 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 recommended a check-up with a physician.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

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

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For instance, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you try to get 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 that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

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

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) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number jumps 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 people 75-years or older.

Even though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a typical part of growing older, people commonly just accept it because they believe it’s a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

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

  • Do I regularly ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I always need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?

Science has definitely found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The results revealed that the people who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your normal annual physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you may be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing evaluation. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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