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

In seniors with memory loss or impaired mental function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But recent research suggests at least some of that worry may be unjustified and that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition.

According to a study that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually could be the results of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully assessed participant’s functional capabilities associated with thought and memory and searched for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals examined for cognitive impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those people.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are worried 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 said to them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended an appointment with a physician.

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

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

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. Case in point, let’s say 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 certain what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. 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

Given the connection between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older could be experiencing these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, 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 people 75-years or older.

Though it’s true that gradual hearing loss is a common trait of aging, people often just accept it because they think it’s a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for somebody 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.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans with loss of hearing 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:

  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • How often do I ask people to speak slower or louder?

Science has positively found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study 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 impaired memory and thought.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. This should be a part of your regular annual physical particularly if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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