It Isn’t Dementia, it’s Hearing Loss

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

In seniors who have loss of memory or diminished mental function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research indicates that these problems might be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the concern might baseless.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually might be the results of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought. Of those they evaluated for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that spanned from mild to severe. Surprisingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported 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 study. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested a check-up with a physician.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

It’s easy to understand how a person could link mental decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss 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, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves incorrectly 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.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Considering the relationship between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age may be experiencing these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number rises significantly 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 common part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for somebody to get treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Is it Possible That You Could Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing serious enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I constantly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

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

There is one way you may be able to prevent any possible confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. This should be a part of your normal yearly physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.

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