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 loss of memory and reduced mental function. However, the latest research indicates that these issues may be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the concern may unfounded.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a consequence of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought and searched for any connections to potential brain disorders. Out of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In many instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Imagine a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. As an example, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? Is there any way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. But it may actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Given the relationship between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older may be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. 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.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a 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 a person to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Could You 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • Do I try to avoid social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

Science has definitely found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the hearing loss at the start 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 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.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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