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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of memory loss and reduced cognitive function. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that concern may be unfounded and that these issues might be the outcome of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually could be the results of neglected hearing loss are often mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for connections to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities related to thought and memory. Of those they evaluated for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Shockingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In many circumstances, the reason behind 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 doctor.

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

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

Envision a situation where your best friend asks you for a favor. 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 get them to repeat themselves? 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 kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. But it might actually be a hearing problem that’s progressive and ongoing. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

Given the link between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older may be having these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number rises considerably 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.

While it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a typical trait of aging, people often just accept it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for hearing loss. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.

Is it Possible That You Might be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever truly wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss severe 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 noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I constantly need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?
  • Do I regularly ask others to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have issues comprehending words if there’s a lot of background noise?

It’s important to point out that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental capabilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results revealed that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.

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

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing assessment if you think there may be a chance you might be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.