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

In seniors who have memory loss or diminished mental function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that worry may be unfounded and that these issues could be the consequences of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s might actually be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought and looked for any connections to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of people assessed for mental impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when examining patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason for 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 some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

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

Envision a scenario 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 possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. 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

It’s not surprising that people of an advanced age are experiencing these problems given the correlation between aging and the likelihood of having hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. In the meantime, that number goes up 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 people 75-years or older.

Even though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a common trait of getting older, people commonly just accept it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for somebody to get treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered if 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:

  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Do I always ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I constantly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?

Science has definitely found a link 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 people who had 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 cognitive function.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any potential confusion between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing test. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a regular part of your annual physical, particularly for those who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC