Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

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. However, recent research suggests at least some of that worry might be unjustified and that these issues might be the outcome of a far more treatable condition.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully evaluated participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought and looked for any links to possible brain disorders. Of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Surprisingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of 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 Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

It’s easy to understand how someone could link mental decline with Alzheimer’s because loss of hearing is not the first thing that an older adult would consider.

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask you? 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 likely that some people could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. But it may actually be a hearing problem that’s progressive and persistent. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear in the first place.

There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

Considering the relationship between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older may be experiencing these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. In the meantime, that number goes up 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 those 75-years or older.

Even though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a normal part of getting older, people often just tolerate it because they believe it’s a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to get 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 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:

  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • Do I regularly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I stay away from social events because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research 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 diminished thought and memory.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your normal yearly physical especially if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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