An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of loss of memory and diminished cognitive function. But current research indicates that these problems could be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the concern might unfounded.
According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be the result of Alzheimer’s could actually be a consequence of untreated hearing loss.
In the Canadian study, researchers closely evaluated participant’s functional abilities pertaining to thought and memory and looked for any links to potential brain disorders. Out of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Unexpectedly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those.
These findings are supported by patients who were concerned that they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In some instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they noticed memory lapses or diminished attention span.
The Line is Blurred Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s
While hearing loss may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to understand how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.
Imagine a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, they have an upcoming trip and need a ride to the airport. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you try to have them to repeat themselves? If you still aren’t sure 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 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.
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 just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. Meanwhile, that number goes up 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.
Gradual hearing loss, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes about 10 years on average for someone to seek treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.
Could You be Suffering From Hearing Loss?
If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans who have loss of hearing severe enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
- How often do I have to ask people to talk slower or louder?
- Do I try to avoid social situations because having a conversation in a loud room is hard?
- Is hearing consonants difficult?
- If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue comprehending words?
It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a conclusive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 people who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the worse the hearing loss at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired memory and thought.
There is one way you may be able to eliminate any potential confusion between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. The prevailing thought in the health care community is that this screening should be a regular part of your annual physical, particularly for those who are over 65.
Have Questions About Hearing Loss?
If you think you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a full hearing examination. Make your appointment for an exam today.