Folsom Hearing Aid Center - Folsom and Placerville, CA

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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and diminished cognitive function. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that worry may be unjustified and that these problems might be the outcome of a much more treatable affliction.

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

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought. Of those they examined for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Astonishingly, 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 support anecdotal evidence they’ve noticed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many circumstances, 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 told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested a check-up with a physician.

The Line is Blurred Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

It’s easy to see how a person could connect cognitive decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an aging adult would think of.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. 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 have them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected 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 type of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

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

Given the link between aging and an increased chance of hearing loss, it’s not surprising 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 disabling hearing loss. In the meantime, that number rises 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.

Though it’s true that progressive hearing loss is a normal part of getting older, people commonly just tolerate it because they believe it’s a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for somebody to get treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse yet, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.

Could You 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 dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • Do I always need to raise the volume on the radio or television to hear them?
  • Do I regularly ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I try to avoid social events because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue understanding words?

It’s important to point out that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no mental 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 experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to weakened memory and thought.

There is one way you might be able to prevent any potential misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing test. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for people who are over 65.

Do You Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing assessment if you think there may be a chance you may be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing exam right away.