It’s Not Dementia, it’s Hearing Loss

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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of memory loss and impaired cognitive function. However, the latest research shows that these problems might be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the concern might unfounded.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s could actually be a consequence of neglected hearing loss.

For the Canadian study, researchers carefully assessed participant’s functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory and looked for any links to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals examined for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. In many circumstances, 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 said to them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

It’s easy to understand how a person could associate 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 best friend asks you for a favor. As an example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s likely that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

Given the link between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be having these issues. 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. 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 people 75-years or older.

While it’s true that progressive loss of hearing is a common part of aging, people often just tolerate it because they think it’s a part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Could be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever truly wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing severe enough that it needs to be addressed, 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?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a noisy room so you avoid social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem understanding words?
  • Do I regularly ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?

Science has positively found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however, they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental capabilities of 639 people who noted no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results revealed that the people who had worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

There is one way you might be able to avoid any potential misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing test. This should be a part of your regular annual 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 chance you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. 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.