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

In seniors with loss of memory or impaired mental function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that concern may be baseless and that these problems may be the result of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually might be the results of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional abilities related to thought and memory. Out of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that spanned from mild to severe. Unexpectedly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

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 some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or diminished attention span.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. Case in point, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you ask them to repeat it? If you still aren’t certain 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 professionals to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. Instead, it could very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

It’s not surprising that people of an advanced age are experiencing these problems given the correlation between aging and the likelihood of having hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number goes up 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 loss of hearing, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for a person to get treatment for hearing loss. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever wondered if you have hearing loss severe 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:

  • Is it difficult to engage in conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem understanding words?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak slower or louder?

Science has positively found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study studied 639 individuals who noted no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the hearing loss at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to weakened memory and thought.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a routine part of your annual physical, especially for people who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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