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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of loss of memory and reduced mental function. However, current research suggests that these issues may be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry may unfounded.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually may be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers carefully evaluated participant’s functional capabilities related to thought and memory and searched for any connections to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of those assessed for cognitive impairment had minor to extreme hearing loss. Shockingly, only around 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 worried that they may have Alzheimer’s. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the visit to the doctor because they observed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.

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

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

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? 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 know 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. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear in the first place.

There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

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) estimates that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number jumps 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.

Though it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a typical trait of getting older, people often just tolerate it because they believe it’s a part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for a person to get treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

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

If you’ve ever truly wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing severe enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?
  • How often do I have to ask people to talk slower or louder?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I avoid social events because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study studied 639 individuals who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can eliminate any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The current thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a routine part of your yearly physical, especially for those who are over 65 years old.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you might be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing examination. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.