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

In seniors with memory loss or diminished cognitive function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, current research suggests that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the worry may baseless.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually might be the results of untreated hearing loss are often mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

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

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In many circumstances, 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 doctor.

The Line is Blurred Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

While hearing loss might not be the first thing an older adult considers when dealing with potential mental decline, it’s easy to understand how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. For instance, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you ask them to repeat it? If you still aren’t sure what they said, is there any possible way you would know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s likely that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing professionals. 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 to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

Given the relationship between advanced age with an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older may be experiencing these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. In the meantime, that number rises 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 common part of growing older, people often just accept it because they think it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes about 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 really need them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever wondered if 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. Consider the following questions:

  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I try to avoid social events because holding a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background noise?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Is hearing consonants hard?

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

There is one way you may be able to eliminate any potential confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing test. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a routine part of your annual physical, particularly for those who are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing examination if you think there is a possibility you might be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.