Hearing Health Blog

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 loss of memory and impaired mental function. However, recent research shows that at least some of that concern might be unjustified and that these problems may be the consequences of a far more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms that actually might be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely examined participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought and searched for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals evaluated for mental impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Shockingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals 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 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 an appointment with a doctor.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

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

Think of a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. As an example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you didn’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 know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s likely that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

Progressive Loss of Hearing is Normal, But it 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) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. 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.

While it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a normal trait of getting older, people commonly just tolerate it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Still worse, 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 with loss of hearing severe enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I stay away from social events because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.

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 tested the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no mental 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 get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

There is one way you may be able to prevent any possible confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this screening should be a routine part of your annual physical, especially for people who are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing evaluation if you think there may be a possibility you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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