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

An inherent 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 problems may be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the worry might baseless.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to 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 abilities associated with memory and thought and searched for any links to possible brain disorders. Of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to extreme. Shockingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the visit to the doctor because they observed memory lapses or shortened attention.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential cognitive decline, it’s easy to understand how one can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Think of a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask them to repeat it? 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 line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. But it might really be a hearing problem that’s progressive and persistent. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

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

Given the link between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age may be experiencing these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number jumps 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.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for someone to seek treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Is it Possible That You Could Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever wondered if you have hearing loss extreme 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 regularly ask others to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?

Science has definitely found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research discovered that the people who had worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

There is one way you may be able to avoid any potential confusion between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing screening. This should be a part of your normal annual physical especially if you are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing examination if you think there may be a chance you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.