It’s Hearing Loss Not Dementia

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

In seniors who have loss of memory or impaired cognitive function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research shows that at least some of that concern might be unjustified and that these problems may be the result of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be the result of Alzheimer’s may actually be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities related to thought and memory. 56 percent of people evaluated for mental impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many circumstances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended a check-up with a physician.

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

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when dealing with potential mental decline, it’s easy to see 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, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’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 line 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 problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

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) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. In the meantime, 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 those 75-years or older.

Gradual hearing loss, which is a common 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 someone to get treatment for hearing loss. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.

Is it Possible That You Might 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 speak slower or louder?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I constantly need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear?

Science has positively found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the people who had worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any possible misunderstandings between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this screening should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for those who are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing assessment. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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