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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of memory loss and impaired cognitive function. But current research shows that these issues might be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the concern might unjustified.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, 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 searched for links to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional abilities related to memory and thought. 56 percent of those evaluated for mental impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are supported by patients who think they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the visit to the doctor because they noticed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

It’s easy to see how someone could connect mental decline with Alzheimer’s because loss of hearing is not the first thing that an older adult would consider.

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you ask them to repeat it? 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 might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. But it may really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear in the first place.

Gradual Hearing Loss is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it

Considering the relationship between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older could be experiencing 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 rises 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.

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, the average time it takes for somebody to get treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss serious enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • How often do I ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I have issues comprehending words when there is a lot of background sound?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

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

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can avoid any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your regular yearly physical especially if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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