Robby Young's Hearing Aid Center - Coachella Valley, CA

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

In seniors who have memory loss or impaired cognitive function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, current research shows that these issues might be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry may unjustified.

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

For the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought and searched for any connections to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of those assessed for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme hearing loss. Shockingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the visit to the doctor because they observed memory lapses or shortened attention span.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

While hearing loss may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential cognitive decline, it’s easy to see how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. As an example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? 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 know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s possible that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it could very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Gradual Loss of Hearing is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it

Considering the link between advanced age with an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older may be having these problems. 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 jumps 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 loss of hearing is a typical part of aging, people commonly just tolerate it because they think it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for a person to get treatment for hearing loss. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have hearing loss serious enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Do I have a problem understanding words when there is a lot of background sound?
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Do I regularly ask others to talk louder or slower?

It’s important to note that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to weakened memory and thought.

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

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing assessment. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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