Hear in Edmonton - Edmonton, Alberta

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

In seniors who have loss of memory or diminished mental function, the inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But recent research suggests that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry may unjustified.

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

For the Canadian study, researchers closely assessed participant’s functional abilities associated with thought and memory and looked for any links to potential brain disorders. Of those they examined for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that spanned from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up 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 instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed memory lapses or diminished attention span.

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

While loss of hearing might not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when dealing with potential cognitive decline, it’s easy to understand how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. As an example, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What would happen if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to get 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 that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

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

Considering the correlation between advanced age with an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number jumps significantly 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 untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for somebody to get treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Is it Possible That You Could Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever truly wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans with loss of hearing serious 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:

  • How often do I have to ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.

Science has definitely found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The research discovered that the participants who had worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

There is one way you might be able to avoid any potential confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing screening. This should be a part of your regular annual physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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