Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who struggle with the symptoms of memory loss and impaired mental function. But the latest research suggests at least some of that worry might be unfounded and that these issues could be the outcome of a much more treatable condition.

According to a study published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually might be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are often mistaken as the consequence of Alzheimer’s.

In the Canadian study, researchers closely analyzed participant’s functional capabilities related to thought and memory and looked for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals examined for mental impairment had minor to severe hearing loss. Shockingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who were concerned that they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of 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 recommended an appointment with a physician.

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

It’s easy to see how a person could connect cognitive decline with Alzheimer’s because loss of hearing is not the first thing that an aging adult would consider.

Having your friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. As an example, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t hear their question clearly? Would you ask them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves incorrectly with Alzheimer’s. But it might actually be a hearing problem that’s progressive and ongoing. 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

Considering the correlation between advanced age with an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s not surprising that people who are getting older could be having these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. In the meantime, 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 people 75-years or older.

Progressive hearing loss, which is a part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as a normal part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for somebody to seek treatment for hearing loss is around 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 ever truly wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss serious enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is hearing consonants challenging?
  • Do I always ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is it hard to engage in conversations in a noisy room so you stay away from social situations?
  • If there is a lot of background noise, do I have an issue comprehending words?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV in order to hear them.

Science has definitely found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who noted no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period observing their progress and aging. 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 memory and thought.

Getting a hearing assessment is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. The current thought among the health care community is that this evaluating should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for those who are over 65.

Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

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

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today