It’s Hearing Loss Not Dementia

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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of loss of memory and diminished cognitive function. However, recent research shows that at least some of that concern may be baseless and that these problems might be the consequences of a much more treatable condition.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, 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 carefully examined participant’s functional capabilities associated with memory and thought and looked for any connections to possible brain disorders. Of those they screened for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to extreme. Shockingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. 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 said to them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended a check-up with a physician.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

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

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. For instance, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you try to have 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. But it might actually 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.

Gradual 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 only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. Meanwhile, 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 loss of hearing, which is a part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Could 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. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often do I have to ask people to talk slower or louder?
  • Do I constantly need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I try to avoid social events because holding a conversation in a loud room is hard?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I have issues understanding words when there is a lot of background sound?

Science has definitely found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The study found that the worse the hearing loss at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to develop 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 loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have 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?

If you think you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing evaluation. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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