HEARING TIPS

Is it Dementia or Hearing Loss?

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

In seniors who have loss of memory or impaired cognitive function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, recent research indicates at least some of that concern might be unjustified and that these issues could be the result of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s could in fact be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

For the Canadian study, researchers carefully evaluated participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to thought and memory and searched for any connections to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of those examined for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme loss of hearing. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those people.

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

The Line is Blurred Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Envision a scenario where your friend asks you for a favor. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get 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 that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. But it might 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.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, Can be Treated

Given the connection between advanced age with an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age may be having these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number jumps dramatically 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 loss of hearing, which is a typical part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to get treatment for hearing loss. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy 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. Consider the following questions:

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

It’s important to note 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 noted no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the worse the hearing loss at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired memory and thought.

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

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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