Bright Audiology - Sanford, NC

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 unjustified and that these issues could be the outcome of a far more treatable affliction.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually may be the results of neglected hearing loss are often mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for connections to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. 56 percent of people assessed for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the study. In many instances, 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 said to them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended a check-up with a physician.

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

It’s easy to see how someone could connect mental decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an aging adult would consider.

Think of a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. For instance, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you ask 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 could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. But it may really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

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) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number goes up considerably 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 progressive hearing loss is a normal trait of aging, people commonly just tolerate it because they think it’s just a part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. 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 ever wondered if 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is it hard to have conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • How often do I ask people to talk slower or louder?
  • Do I regularly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?

It’s important to point out that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this evaluating should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for those who are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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