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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and diminished cognitive function. However, recent research suggests that these issues may be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry might baseless.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s could in fact be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional capabilities associated with memory and thought and searched for any links to possible brain disorders. Out of those they screened for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that spanned from mild to extreme. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those people.

These findings are backed up 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 paper. 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 suggested a check-up with a physician.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

It’s easy to understand how a person could link cognitive decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an aging adult would think of.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. As an example, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t sure what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s possible that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Gradual 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) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. 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.

Gradual hearing loss, which is a common part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, 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 actually purchase 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I have a problem understanding words when there is a lot of background sound?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?
  • How often do I ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?

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 studied 639 people who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The research revealed that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

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

Do You 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 full hearing evaluation. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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