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 cognitive function. However, the latest research indicates that these issues may be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the worry might baseless.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually might be the results of untreated hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities related to memory and thought. Out of those they examined for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Shockingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported by patients who think they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the visit to the doctor because they observed gaps in memory or diminished attention.

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

While loss of hearing might not be the first thing an aging adult considers when dealing with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to understand how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Envision a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? 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 likely that some people could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. But it may really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Progressive Loss of Hearing is Normal, But it Can be Treated

Considering the correlation between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older could be experiencing these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number rises 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 often just tolerate it because they think it’s a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for somebody to seek treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

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

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

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 analyzed the mental capabilities of 639 people who reported no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study found that the worse the hearing loss at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired thought and memory.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can avoid any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The current thought in the health care community is that this screening should be a routine part of your annual physical, especially for people who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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