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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

In seniors with loss of memory or impaired mental function, the inherent dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. However, the latest research shows that at least some of that concern may be baseless and that these problems might be the outcome of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a study that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some believe to be a product of Alzheimer’s might in fact be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for links to brain conditions by carefully evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to thought and memory. Of those they screened for mental impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to extreme. Astonishingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those.

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

The Line Between Alzheimer’s And Hearing Loss is Blurred

It’s easy to understand how someone could connect mental decline with Alzheimer’s because hearing loss is not the first thing that an aging adult would consider.

Envision a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. 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? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type 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 don’t hear in the first place.

Gradual Loss of Hearing 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) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. In the meantime, that number goes up 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 aging, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. The truth is, the average time it takes for a person to get treatment for hearing loss is around 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they actually need them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with hearing loss severe enough that it needs to be addressed, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Consider the following questions:

  • Do I regularly ask others to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I have issues comprehending words when there is a lot of background sound?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • Is it difficult to have conversations in a crowded room so you avoid social situations?
  • Do I have difficulty hearing consonants?

Science has positively found a connection between hearing loss 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 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 weakened memory and thought.

There is one way you may be able to avoid any possible confusion between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. This should be a part of your regular annual physical especially if you are over 65 years old.

Have Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a full hearing examination if you think there is a possibility you could be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s. Make your appointment for an exam today.

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