HEARING TIPS

It’s Not Dementia, it’s Hearing Loss

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

In seniors with loss of memory or diminished cognitive function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But recent research shows that at least some of that concern may be baseless and that these problems might be the consequences of a far more treatable condition.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. 56 percent of those examined for cognitive impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are worried that they might have Alzheimer’s. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they observed memory lapses or shortened attention span.

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

While loss of hearing might not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when dealing with potential mental damage, it’s easy to see how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. For example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to get 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 may 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. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

Progressive Hearing Loss is Normal, But it Can be Treated

Considering the connection between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age may be experiencing these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. 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 getting older, people commonly just accept it because they think it’s a part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for loss of hearing. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered if 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • Do I regularly ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I have issues understanding words if there’s a lot of background noise?

Science has positively found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired thought and memory.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any potential confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing screening. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this evaluating should be a routine part of your yearly physical, particularly for those who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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