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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 memory loss and reduced mental function. But current research shows that these problems might be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the concern might unfounded.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities related to memory and thought. 56 percent of those assessed for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. 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 was one of the authors of the study. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they observed memory lapses or diminished attention.

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

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

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. Case in point, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t certain what they said, is there any possible way you would know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it might actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. Simply put, 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

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 only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. 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 people 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a common part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for a person to seek treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Is it Possible That You Could Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever truly wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing serious 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:

  • Do I have a problem comprehending words if there is a lot of background noise?
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • How often do I have to ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research revealed 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 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?

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