Hearing Health Blog

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

In seniors who have loss of memory or diminished cognitive function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that concern may be unfounded and that these problems might be the outcome of a far more treatable condition.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s could in fact be a consequence of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely assessed participant’s functional capabilities related to memory and thought and searched for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of those evaluated for mental impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when examining patients who are concerned that they may 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 some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended a check-up with a doctor.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

It’s easy to understand how someone could connect mental decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an older adult would consider.

Think of a situation where your best friend asks you for a favor. For instance, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? 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 that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. 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.

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

Considering the relationship between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older may be experiencing these issues. 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. Meanwhile, that number goes up 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.

Though it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a common part of growing older, people commonly just accept it because they believe it’s a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with loss of hearing serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?
  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I regularly need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear?

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 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 worse the loss of hearing 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 thought and memory.

There is one way you may be able to avoid any potential misunderstandings between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing assessment. 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 chance you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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