Gold Country Hearing - Gold Country Valley, CA

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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who deal with the symptoms of memory loss and reduced cognitive function. But the latest research indicates at least some of that concern might be unjustified and that these issues could be the outcome of a much more treatable condition.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s could actually be a consequence of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought. 56 percent of those evaluated for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was 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 many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the visit to the doctor because they observed memory lapses or shortened attention span.

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

While loss of hearing might not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to see how one can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For instance, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. But it might really 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 Hearing Loss is Normal, But it Can be Treated

Given the link between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be having 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 loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number rises considerably 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.

Progressive loss of hearing, which is a typical part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone 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 Might be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

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

  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words if there’s a lot of background noise?
  • Do I regularly ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

Science has definitely found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. 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 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 memory and thought.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can eliminate any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your normal annual physical especially if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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