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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 impaired mental function. However, recent research indicates at least some of that worry might be baseless and that these issues could be the outcome of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a study that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually may be the consequences of neglected hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional abilities associated with thought and memory and looked for any links to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of those examined for cognitive impairment had mild to severe loss of hearing. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those.

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 might have Alzheimer’s. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they observed memory lapses or diminished attention.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Think of a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask them to repeat it? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected 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 professionals. Instead, it could 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, There Are Ways to Treat it

Given the relationship between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age could be experiencing these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number rises 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 those 75-years or older.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a common part of growing older, 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 yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually 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:

  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I always ask others to speak louder or slower?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

Science has definitely found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The study 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 thought and memory.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your normal yearly physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing evaluation if you think there is a possibility you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. 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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