It Isn’t Dementia, it’s Hearing Loss

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

In seniors who have memory loss or diminished mental function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research indicates that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the worry may unfounded.

According to a study that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s might actually be a consequence of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought. Out of those they evaluated for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, only around 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 study. In many circumstances, the reason behind 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 recommended an appointment with a doctor.

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

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

Imagine a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. For example, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What 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 kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing issue. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

Considering the relationship between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age may be experiencing these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling 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 people 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a common part of aging, 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 loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

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

If you’ve ever wondered if 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. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • Do I avoid social events because having a conversation in a busy room is difficult?
  • Do I have issues understanding words when there is a lot of background noise?
  • Do I regularly ask others to speak louder or slower?

It’s important to point out that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The study found that the worse the hearing loss at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to diminished thought and memory.

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

Have Any 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 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.