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

In seniors with memory loss or diminished mental function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, recent research indicates that these problems could 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 might be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully assessed participant’s functional capabilities related to memory and thought and searched for any connections to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals assessed for mental impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Unexpectedly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are supported by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. 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 an appointment with a doctor.

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

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an aging adult considers when dealing with potential mental damage, it’s easy to understand how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For example, 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 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 specialists. But it may actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Gradual Loss of Hearing is Normal, But it Can be Treated

Given the correlation between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older could be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number jumps 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 typical part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal 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 end up purchasing hearing aids even when they really need them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss severe enough to need to be addressed like millions of other Americans, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I regularly need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Do I have issues comprehending words when there is a lot of background noise?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • How often do I ask people to talk slower or louder?
  • Do I avoid social events because holding a conversation in a loud room is hard?

Science has definitely found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The research discovered that the people who experienced worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any possible misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing screening. This should be a part of your normal annual physical particularly if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.