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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who deal with the symptoms of memory loss and impaired cognitive function. But recent research suggests at least some of that worry may be baseless and that these issues could be the result of a much more treatable condition.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms some think might be the result of Alzheimer’s might actually be a consequence of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities related to thought and memory. Out of those they evaluated for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that spanned from mild to severe. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those people.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In some instances, 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 Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Envision a situation where your best friend asks you for a favor. Case in point, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to get 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 kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves erroneously 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 to begin with.

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

Considering the relationship 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) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number jumps 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.

Progressive loss of hearing, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. 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 Could be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether 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 hard?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words if there is a lot of background noise?
  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental capabilities 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 had worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any possible confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a routine part of your yearly physical, particularly for those who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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