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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and reduced cognitive function. However, recent research shows that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the concern might unfounded.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be the result of Alzheimer’s could in fact be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely evaluated participant’s functional abilities related to memory and thought and looked for any connections to potential brain disorders. Out of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Shockingly, only about 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 noticed when examining patients who are concerned 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 told them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

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

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to understand how one can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Think of a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. As an example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it may 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.

Progressive Loss of Hearing is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it

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 disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number rises 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 people 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for somebody to seek treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.

Is it Possible That You Might be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether 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:

  • Do I have issues comprehending words when there is a lot of background sound?
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I try to avoid social events because holding a conversation in a loud room is hard?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

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

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

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing evaluation if you think there may be a possibility you may be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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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