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 loss of memory and diminished mental function. However, the latest research suggests that these issues may be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry might unfounded.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be a product of Alzheimer’s could actually be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for connections to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought. 56 percent of people evaluated for cognitive impairment had minor to severe loss of hearing. Shockingly, only around 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 back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are worried that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

It’s easy to understand 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 buddy ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. As an example, let’s say 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 certain what they said, is there any possible way you would know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you didn’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 only 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.

Progressive loss of hearing, which is a typical part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I avoid social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • Do I have issues comprehending words if there’s a lot of background noise?
  • Do I regularly ask others to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

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

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your regular annual physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today