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

In seniors with loss of memory or diminished mental function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But recent research indicates at least some of that worry may be unfounded and that these issues could be the outcome of a much more treatable condition.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s may actually be a consequence of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely examined participant’s functional capabilities related to memory and thought and searched for any connections to potential brain disorders. Out of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Surprisingly, only around 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported 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 cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the visit to the doctor because they observed memory lapses or diminished attention span.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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 think of.

Imagine a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. As an example, 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? 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 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 an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

Gradual Loss of Hearing 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) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. Meanwhile, 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 people 75-years or older.

Though it’s true that gradual hearing loss is a common part of growing older, people commonly just accept it because they think it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for a person to get treatment for hearing loss. 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 ever truly wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing severe enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a problem understanding words if there’s a lot of background noise?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I always ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Do I try to avoid social events because holding a conversation in a busy room is hard?

Science has positively found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who noted no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the people who had worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. This should be a part of your regular yearly physical particularly if you are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing examination if you think there is a possibility you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.

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