HEARING TIPS

It’s Hearing Loss Not Dementia

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

In seniors with memory loss or diminished mental function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research indicates at least some of that worry might be unfounded and that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually might be the results of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to thought and memory. 56 percent of those examined for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Astonishingly, 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 authored the paper. 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 told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

While hearing loss may not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when faced with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to see how one can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can be easily imagined. As an example, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? 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 likely that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. But it may really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

Given the correlation between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be having these troubles. 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 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.

While it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a typical trait of growing older, people often just accept it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Might be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

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

  • Do I always ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no mental 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 experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to diminished thought and memory.

There is one way you might be able to avoid any potential misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing assessment. This should be a part of your normal annual physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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