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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and impaired mental function. However, recent research shows that at least some of that concern might be unfounded and that these problems might be the consequences of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms that actually could be the consequences of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities related to memory and thought. 56 percent of people evaluated for cognitive impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when examining patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested a check-up with a physician.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. Case in point, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear in the first place.

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

Given the correlation between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age may be experiencing these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number goes up 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 people 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a part of growing older, 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 hearing loss. 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 ever wondered if 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:

  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I stay away from social events because having a conversation in a busy room is difficult?
  • Do I regularly need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?

Science has positively found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The study 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 weakened memory and thought.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a routine part of your annual physical, especially for people who are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing evaluation if you think there may be a chance you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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