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 memory loss and reduced mental function. However, the latest research suggests that these problems may be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the concern might unfounded.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. 56 percent of people examined for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many circumstances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to 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 physician.

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

It’s easy to see how someone could associate cognitive decline with Alzheimer’s because loss of hearing is not the first thing that an aging adult would consider.

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can be easily imagined. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask 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 that kind of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

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

Considering the correlation between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older may be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number jumps 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 people 75-years or older.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for hearing loss. 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 Have 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 dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I always need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I always ask others to speak louder or slower?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I avoid social events because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?
  • Do I have a problem understanding words if there’s a lot of background sound?

It’s important to note that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study studied 639 individuals who noted no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The results revealed that the people who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

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

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing examination. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.