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 deal with the symptoms of loss of memory and impaired cognitive function. However, recent research indicates that these issues could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the concern might baseless.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought. Out of those they evaluated for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to extreme. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those people.

These findings are backed up 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 recommended the visit to the doctor because they observed memory lapses or diminished attention span.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

It’s easy to see how a person could link mental decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an older adult would consider.

Think of a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? 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 likely that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it may very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Considering the correlation between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age could be having these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number jumps 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.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for somebody to seek treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Could 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I regularly ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I always need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue comprehending words?

It’s important to note that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study found that the worse the hearing loss at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired thought and memory.

There is one way you might be able to eliminate any potential misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. This should be a part of your regular yearly physical especially if you are over 65.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

Questions? Talk To Us.