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

In seniors with memory loss or diminished cognitive function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But recent research shows that at least some of that worry might be unfounded and that these problems might be the outcome of a far more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, 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 searched for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities related to thought and memory. 56 percent of individuals assessed for mental impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are worried that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many circumstances, 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 many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. For example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? 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 that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. But it may really 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.

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

Considering the link between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age could 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 disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, 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 people 75-years or older.

Even though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a common part of growing older, people often just tolerate it because they think it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes around 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 actually need them.

Is it Possible That You Could Have 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. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I regularly need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue understanding words?

Science has positively found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. 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 experienced worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

There is one way you may be able to avoid any potential misunderstandings between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing screening. The current thought in the health care community is that this evaluating should be a routine part of your annual physical, particularly for those who 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 may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.