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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who struggle with the symptoms of loss of memory and impaired mental function. However, the latest research suggests that these issues might be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the worry may unjustified.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully analyzed participant’s functional abilities associated with memory and thought and looked for any links to potential brain disorders. Of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those people.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended a check-up with a doctor.

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

While loss of hearing might not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when dealing with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to see how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask 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 that kind of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. 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

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) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number rises dramatically 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.

Progressive loss of hearing, which is a part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for loss of hearing. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they really need them.

Is it Possible That You Could Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss extreme enough to need to be addressed like millions of other Americans, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Do I always ask others to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I avoid social events because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?

It’s important to note that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental abilities of 639 people who noted 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, an umbrella 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 hearing loss. This should be a part of your normal annual physical especially if you are over 65.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you might be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing evaluation. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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.
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