In seniors with loss of memory or diminished mental function, the underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research shows that at least some of that worry might be baseless and that these issues could be the outcome of a far more treatable affliction.
According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually could be the consequences of neglected hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.
In the Canadian study, researchers carefully examined participant’s functional capabilities related to memory and thought and looked for any links to possible brain disorders. Out of those they screened for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had hearing loss that spanned from mild to extreme. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was used by only 20 percent of those.
These findings are backed up by patients who were concerned that they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the paper. In some cases, it was a patient’s loved ones who recommended the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or diminished attention.
The Blurred Line Between Hearing Loss And Alzheimer’s
While hearing loss might not be the first thing an older adult thinks of when dealing with potential mental damage, it’s easy to understand how someone can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.
Think of a scenario where your best friend asks you for a favor. Case in point, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What would happen if you couldn’t hear their question clearly? Would you try to have 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 likely that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this type of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it could very well be an ongoing and progressive hearing problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.
There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition
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) estimates that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. In the meantime, that number jumps 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 common part of growing older, often goes neglected because people just accept it as part of life. The fact is, the average time it takes for a person to get treatment for loss of hearing is about 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 really wondered whether you were one of the millions of Americans with loss of hearing severe enough that it needs to be dealt with, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Do I have a problem comprehending words when there is a lot of background noise?
- Do I have problems hearing consonants?
- Do I regularly ask others to speak louder or slower?
- Do I stay away from social events because holding a conversation in a busy room is hard?
- Do I have to crank up the radio or TV in order to hear them.
It’s important to note that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has shown a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental capabilities of 639 people who noted no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The results found that the people who had worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and thought.
There is one way you might be able to avoid any possible confusion between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, and that is to have a hearing screening. The current thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a routine part of your yearly physical, especially for those who are over 65 years old.
Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?
We can help with a full hearing assessment if you think there is a possibility you might be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.