Hearing Health Blog

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

In seniors who have memory loss or impaired mental function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, recent research indicates at least some of that worry might be unjustified and that these problems may be the consequences of a much more treatable affliction.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers closely assessed participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought and looked for any connections to possible brain disorders. Out of those they examined for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Shockingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when examining patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the visit to the doctor because they noticed memory lapses or diminished attention.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Imagine a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. As an example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t certain what they said, is there any possible way you would know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may actually be a hearing problem that’s progressive and persistent. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Progressive Loss of Hearing is Normal, But it Can be Treated

Considering the connection between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older could be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number jumps 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 people 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a common part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever truly wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans who have hearing loss serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?
  • How often do I have to ask people to talk slower or louder?
  • Do I regularly need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Do I have issues understanding words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?

Science has positively found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study studied 639 people who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to weakened memory and thought.

There is one way you may be able to eliminate any possible confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this assessment should be a regular part of your yearly physical, particularly for those who are over 65.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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