In seniors with loss of memory or diminished mental function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research indicates at least some of that worry may be unfounded and that these problems could be the outcome of a much more treatable affliction.
According to a Canadian Medical Journal report, the symptoms that actually could be the results of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.
For the Canadian study, researchers closely evaluated participant’s functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought and looked for any connections to potential brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals assessed for cognitive impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.
A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings back up anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they might have Alzheimer’s. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed gaps in memory or shortened attention span.
The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred
While hearing loss might not be the first thing an older adult considers when faced with potential cognitive decline, it’s easy to see how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.
Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. For instance, they have an upcoming trip and are looking for a ride to the airport. What if you didn’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 that line of thinking that leads hearing professionals to believe some people might be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may actually be a hearing issue that’s progressive and persistent. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.
Progressive Loss of Hearing is Normal, But it Can be Treated
Given the correlation between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. 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 those 75-years or older.
Even though it’s true that progressive loss of hearing is a normal trait of getting older, people commonly just accept it because they think it’s just a part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for a person to get treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will actually purchase hearing aids even when they really need them.
Do You Have Hearing Loss?
If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have a problem understanding words when there is a lot of background noise?
- Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
- Do I regularly ask others to talk louder or slower?
- Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
- Do I stay away from social events because holding a conversation in a loud room is hard?
Science has definitely found a connection between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study evaluated the mental capabilities 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 beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to diminished thought and memory.
Getting a hearing screening is one way you can avoid any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. This should be a part of your normal annual physical especially if you are over 65 years old.
Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?
We can help with a complete hearing evaluation if you think there may be a possibility you may be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.