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

In seniors with loss of memory or diminished cognitive function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But recent research suggests that these problems might be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry might baseless.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. Of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Astonishingly, only about 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 observed when seeing patients who are worried that they may 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 some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

While hearing loss may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to understand how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Imagine a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t sure what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s likely that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing professionals. But it may actually 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 Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Considering the relationship between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older could be having these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number rises considerably 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.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a part of aging, 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, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Might 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 constantly need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • How often do I have to ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words if there is a lot of background noise?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?

It’s important to point out that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the worse the hearing loss at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired memory and thought.

There is one way you may be able to avoid any possible confusion between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing test. This should be a part of your regular yearly physical particularly if you are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing examination if you think there may be a possibility you may be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

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