It’s Hearing Loss Not Dementia

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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant among seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and diminished cognitive function. However, recent research indicates at least some of that worry might be unjustified and that these issues may be the consequences of a much more treatable condition.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s might actually be a repercussion of untreated hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers carefully assessed participant’s functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought and searched for any connections to possible brain disorders. Of those they evaluated for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those people.

These findings are backed up by patients who were concerned that they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In many instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

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

Envision a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t certain 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 could have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Gradual Hearing Loss is Normal, But it Can be Treated

It’s not surprising that people of an advanced age are experiencing these problems given the correlation between aging and the likelihood of having hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating loss of hearing. In the meantime, 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 hearing loss, which is a typical part of aging, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

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

If you’ve thought about whether 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. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I try to avoid social events because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?
  • Do I have issues understanding words if there’s a lot of background noise?
  • How often do I have to ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.

Science has positively found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they are not the same. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no cognitive impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to develop symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to diminished thought and memory.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. This should be a part of your normal yearly physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.