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

In seniors with memory loss or impaired mental function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research shows that these issues may be the result of a much more treatable condition and that at least some of the worry might unfounded.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be a product of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a consequence of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory. Out of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that spanned from mild to severe. Astonishingly, only around 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when examining patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to 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 Line is Blurred Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when dealing with potential mental decline, it’s easy to see how one can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Envision a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For instance, perhaps they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What would happen if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat it? 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 might be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. But it might actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. 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

Considering the connection between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older could be having these issues. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number goes up 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 those 75-years or older.

Gradual hearing loss, which is a part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Could You be Suffering From 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:

  • Do I regularly need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • How often do I ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Do I avoid social events because holding a conversation in a loud room is hard?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?

It’s important to point out that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental capabilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the people who experienced worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

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

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing evaluation if you think there is a chance you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.