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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of memory loss and impaired cognitive function. But current research shows that these problems may be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the concern may baseless.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities related to thought and memory. 56 percent of people examined for mental impairment had mild to severe loss of hearing. Unexpectedly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In some cases, 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

It’s easy to understand how someone could associate mental decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an aging adult would think of.

Imagine a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. As an example, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s likely that some people could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. 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 who are getting older may be experiencing these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. In the meantime, that number rises 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.

Progressive 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 truth is, the average time it takes for somebody to get treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

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

Science has definitely found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results revealed that the people who experienced 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 thought.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. The current thought among the health care community is that this screening 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 might 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.