Hearing Services of Nashville

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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and diminished cognitive function. But the latest research indicates that these issues may be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the concern may unjustified.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s may actually be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for connections to brain disorders by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. 56 percent of people evaluated for mental impairment had minor to extreme loss of hearing. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those people.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when examining patients who are worried that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, 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 some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Imagine a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? 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 kind of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves erroneously with Alzheimer’s. But it might really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. Simply put, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

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

Given the link between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older may be experiencing these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, 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 part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for a person to seek treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I avoid social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?

It’s important to note 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 studied 639 individuals who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying 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 weakened thought and memory.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this assessment should be a regular part of your annual physical, particularly for people who are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing evaluation. 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.
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