HEARING TIPS

Is it Hearing Loss or Dementia?

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

In seniors who have loss of memory or impaired cognitive function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, recent research suggests at least some of that concern might be unfounded and that these problems may be the consequences of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually could be the results of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought. 56 percent of people examined for mental impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals 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 study. In many instances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in many cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended an appointment with a doctor.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Loss of Hearing is Blurred

While hearing loss may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when dealing with potential mental decline, it’s easy to understand how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

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 didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. Put simply, 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) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number rises 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.

Even though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a normal trait of aging, people often just tolerate it because they believe it’s a part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for hearing loss. 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 really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss severe enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have issues comprehending words if there is a lot of background noise?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?

Science has definitely found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the loss of hearing at the beginning 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.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can prevent any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. This should be a part of your regular annual physical especially if you are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing evaluation. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.

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