Coastal Hearing Aid Center - Encinitas, CA

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 impaired cognitive function. However, the latest research suggests at least some of that worry may be unjustified and that these problems may be the consequences of a far more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually could be the consequences of neglected hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers carefully examined participant’s functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory and searched for any links to possible brain disorders. Of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Surprisingly, only about 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 examining 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 many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a physician.

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

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

Envision a situation where your best friend asks you for a favor. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask? 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 that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may really be a hearing problem that’s progressive and ongoing. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, 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) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number jumps 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 those 75-years or older.

Though it’s true that gradual hearing loss is a typical trait of aging, people often just tolerate it because they think 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. 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 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 always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I stay away from social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background noise?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV to hear them.

Science has positively found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental capabilities of 639 people who noted no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results discovered that the people who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any possible misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. The current thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a regular part of your annual physical, particularly for people who are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing examination. 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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