Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

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

In seniors who have loss of memory or diminished cognitive function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research suggests at least some of that worry might be unfounded and that these problems might be the consequences of a far more treatable condition.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually may be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to thought and memory and searched for any links to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of those assessed for cognitive impairment had minor to extreme loss of hearing. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the visit to the doctor because they observed memory lapses or shortened attention.

The Line is Blurred Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a situation 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 didn’t hear their question clearly? 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 possible that some people could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear in the first place.

Gradual Hearing Loss is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it

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. Meanwhile, 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 those 75-years or older.

While it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a normal part of growing older, people commonly just accept it because they believe it’s a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Do You 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 always need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I regularly ask others to talk louder or slower?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I stay away from social situations because having a conversation in a loud room is hard?

It’s important to note that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. 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 discovered that the people who experienced 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 thought.

Getting a hearing assessment is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The current thought in the health care community is that this assessment should be a regular part of your annual physical, particularly for those who are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing evaluation if you think there is a chance you could be confusing loss of hearing 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.
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