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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of memory loss and reduced cognitive function. However, recent research suggests at least some of that worry might be unjustified and that these problems might be the outcome of a far more treatable condition.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s might actually be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities related to thought and memory. Out of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that spanned from mild to extreme. Shockingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.

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

While hearing loss might not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when faced with potential mental damage, it’s easy to see how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Think of a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask 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 likely that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. 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 to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

It’s not surprising that people of an advanced age are experiencing these problems given the correlation between aging and the likelihood of having hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number rises 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.

Though it’s true that gradual hearing loss is a typical part of aging, people commonly just accept it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Could 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. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I avoid social situations because holding a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • How often do I have to ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue understanding words?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a conclusive 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 research discovered that the participants 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 cognitive function.

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 screening. This should be a part of your regular annual physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing examination. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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