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

In seniors who have memory loss or diminished mental function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that concern may be unjustified and that these problems may be the outcome of a far more treatable affliction.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s could actually be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers looked for connections to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional abilities related to memory and thought. Out of those they evaluated for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who served as one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they observed memory lapses or diminished attention span.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

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

Having your buddy ask you for a favor is a scenario that you can imagine. As an example, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t certain what they said, is there any possible way you would recognize 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 kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

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

Considering the link between advanced age with an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people of a certain age could be having these troubles. 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 rises 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 hearing loss, which is a part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for a person to seek treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Still worse, 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 ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with 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 hard?
  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I avoid social situations because having a conversation in a busy room is hard?
  • Do I regularly ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear them?

Science has positively found a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The results discovered that the people who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia, an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

Getting a hearing screening 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 screening should be a regular part of your yearly physical, particularly for people who are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing examination. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

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