It’s Not Dementia, it’s Hearing Loss

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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and impaired cognitive function. However, current research shows that these issues could be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the worry may unfounded.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s could in fact be a consequence of untreated hearing loss.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely examined participant’s functional abilities related to memory and thought and looked for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of people assessed for mental impairment had minor to extreme hearing loss. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In many instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed memory lapses or diminished 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 dealing with potential mental damage, it’s easy to see how one can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Think of a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. As an example, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t certain what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s likely that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear in the first place.

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 just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number goes up 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 aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for hearing loss. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans who have hearing loss severe enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I stay away from social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is difficult?
  • Do I regularly ask others to talk louder or slower?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • Do I regularly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

Science has definitely found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to weakened memory and thought.

There is one way you may be able to eliminate any potential confusion between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a routine part of your annual physical, particularly for people who are over 65 years old.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing assessment if you think there may be a possibility you may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.