Hearing Health Blog

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

In seniors with memory loss or impaired mental function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research suggests at least some of that worry may be baseless and that these issues may be the result of a far more treatable condition.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers closely assessed participant’s functional abilities associated with thought and memory and searched for any connections to potential brain disorders. Of those they screened for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that spanned from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those people.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner said to them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended an appointment with a physician.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an aging adult considers when faced with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to see how one can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can be easily imagined. As an example, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? 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 likely that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. But it might actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. 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

Given the connection between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older could be having these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. In the meantime, that number goes up 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 those 75-years or older.

While it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a normal trait of aging, people commonly just tolerate it because they believe it’s a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to get 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.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

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

  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem comprehending words?

Science has definitely found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research 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 diminished memory and thought.

There is one way you may be able to eliminate any possible misunderstandings between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. This should be a part of your normal yearly physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing assessment if you think there is a possibility you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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