Hearing Associates of Libertyville, IL

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

In seniors with loss of memory or impaired cognitive function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research indicates at least some of that concern may be unjustified and that these problems might be the result of a much more treatable condition.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for links to brain conditions by closely evaluating participants functional abilities related to thought and memory. 56 percent of people evaluated for cognitive impairment had minor to severe loss of hearing. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the study. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the visit to the doctor because they noticed memory lapses or shortened attention span.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

While loss of hearing might not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential mental damage, it’s easy to understand how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. For example, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s likely that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. But it may really be a hearing problem that’s progressive and persistent. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.

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) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. In the meantime, 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 about 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for hearing loss. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether 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. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have a problem comprehending words?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • 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’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results discovered that the people who had worse hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to get dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can eliminate 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 full hearing evaluation if you think there may be a chance you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Schedule your appointment for an exam today.

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