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

In seniors with memory loss or impaired mental function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research shows that these issues may 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 report, the symptoms that actually might be the results of untreated hearing loss are often mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for connections to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to thought and memory. Out of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to extreme. 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 support anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the visit to the doctor because they observed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.

The Line is Blurred Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. For example, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What would happen if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

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

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Given the relationship between advanced age with an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age may be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number goes up 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.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need 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:

  • Do I constantly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have a problem understanding words if there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?
  • Do I try to avoid social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?

It’s important to point out that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. 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 impaired memory and thought.

Getting a hearing assessment is one way you can avoid any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. The current thought in the health care community is that this evaluating should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for those who are over 65.

Do You Have 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 examination. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

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