Is it Dementia or Hearing Loss?

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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who struggle with the symptoms of loss of memory and impaired mental function. But recent research suggests at least some of that worry may be unjustified and that these problems might be the consequences of a far more treatable condition.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually could be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely examined participant’s functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought and looked for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals examined for cognitive impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those people.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. In many instances, the reason for 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 an appointment with a physician.

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 faced with potential mental damage, it’s easy to see how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. Case in point, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get 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 possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it could very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

Considering the connection between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older could be experiencing these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, 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 people 75-years or older.

Though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a typical part of aging, people often just accept it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for somebody to seek treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss extreme enough to need to be addressed like millions of other Americans, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?

Science has positively found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. 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 research found that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

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

Do You Have Any 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 evaluation. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.