It’s Hearing Loss Not Dementia

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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of loss of memory and diminished cognitive function. But the latest research indicates at least some of that worry might be unjustified and that these problems could be the outcome of a far more treatable affliction.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. 56 percent of individuals examined for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or diminished attention.

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

While hearing loss may not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when dealing with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to understand how one can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Envision a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. As an example, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it might really be a hearing problem that’s progressive and ongoing. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

Given the relationship between advanced age with an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age may be experiencing these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, 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 people 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a part of aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Is it Possible That You Might be Suffering From 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. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I have issues comprehending words when there’s a lot of background noise?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a conclusive 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 found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to diminished memory and thought.

Getting a hearing assessment is one way you can avoid 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.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing assessment. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

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