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

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

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be a product of Alzheimer’s might actually be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities related to thought and memory. Out of those they evaluated for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Surprisingly, only about 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 examining patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the visit to the doctor because they observed gaps in memory or shortened attention.

The Line is Blurred Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Think of a situation where your best friend asks you for a favor. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask them to repeat it? Is there any way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you don’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 debilitating hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number rises 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 people 75-years or older.

Gradual hearing loss, which is a typical part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Is it Possible That You Could be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans with loss of hearing severe enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I have issues understanding words when there is a lot of background noise?
  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results discovered 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 cognitive function.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can prevent any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this assessment should be a routine part of your annual physical, particularly for people who are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing evaluation if you think there is a possibility you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

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