In seniors who have loss of memory or diminished mental function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research suggests at least some of that worry may be unfounded and that these issues might be the outcome of a much more treatable affliction.
According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually may be the results of untreated hearing loss are often mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.
In the Canadian study, researchers looked for links to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional abilities related to memory and thought. 56 percent of people examined for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, only around 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 back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when examining patients who are worried that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or diminished attention span.
The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Loss of Hearing is Blurred
While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an older adult considers when faced with potential mental damage, it’s easy to see how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.
Think of a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. Case in point, let’s say they are looking for a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t sure what they said, is there any possible way you would know that you were supposed to drive them to the airport?
It’s that kind of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people could be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may really be a hearing problem that’s progressive and ongoing. Put simply, you can’t remember something that you don’t hear to begin with.
Progressive Hearing Loss is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it
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 hearing loss. In the meantime, 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 people 75-years or older.
Even though it’s true that gradual hearing loss is a typical trait of getting older, people often just tolerate it because they believe it’s just a part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing is around 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.
Do You Have Hearing Loss?
If you’ve ever truly wondered if you were one of the millions of Americans who have hearing loss severe enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is hearing consonants challenging?
- Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
- Do I have a problem comprehending words if there is a lot of background sound?
- How often do I have to ask people to speak louder or slower?
- 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 followed 639 people who noted no cognitive impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. The results discovered that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to get dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.
Getting a hearing assessment is one way you can eliminate any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. This should be a part of your normal annual physical particularly if you are over 65 years old.
Have Questions About Hearing Loss?
If you think you may be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing examination. Make your appointment for an exam today.