Is it Hearing Loss or Dementia?

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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of loss of memory and reduced mental function. But the latest research shows that these issues might be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the concern may unfounded.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s could in fact be a consequence of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. Of those they examined for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In many cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they noticed gaps in memory or diminished attention.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

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

Think of a scenario where your 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 clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t sure what they said, is there any possible way you would know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

Considering the link between advanced age with an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age may be experiencing 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 hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number jumps 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 those 75-years or older.

Gradual hearing loss, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone to get treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they really need them.

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

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss extreme enough to need to be addressed like millions of other Americans, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I try to avoid social events because having a conversation in a busy room is difficult?
  • Do I have issues comprehending words when there is a lot of background noise?

Science has definitely found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who reported 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 beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired memory and thought.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can eliminate any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The current thought in the health care community is that this assessment should be a regular part of your yearly physical, especially for people who are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you may be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing examination. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.

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.


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