It’s Hearing Loss Not Dementia

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

In seniors with memory loss or impaired mental function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research indicates that these problems could be the result of a much more treatable condition and that some of the concern may baseless.

According to a report that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually could be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional capabilities associated with memory and thought and searched for any links to potential brain disorders. Out of those they examined for mental impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that ranged from mild to severe. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. In many circumstances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner said to them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s

While hearing loss might not be the first thing an aging adult considers when faced with potential mental decline, it’s easy to see how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Envision a situation where your best friend asks you for a favor. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were supposed to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s possible that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. But it may really be a hearing issue that’s progressive and ongoing. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

There Are Ways Gradual Hearing Loss, Which is a Normal Condition, 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 only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number rises 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.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a typical 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 someone to get 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • How often do I ask people to speak slower or louder?
  • Do I have to crank up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • Do I have problems hearing consonants?

It’s important to point out that while loss of hearing can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study analyzed the mental capabilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study found that the worse the loss of hearing at the beginning 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.

There is one way you may be able to eliminate any potential misunderstandings between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to undergo a hearing screening. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a regular part of your yearly physical, particularly for people who are over 65.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

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.