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

An underlying fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who deal with the symptoms of loss of memory and impaired cognitive function. But recent research shows that at least some of that concern might be unfounded and that these problems may be the consequences of a much more treatable affliction.

According to a report published in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms some think might be a product of Alzheimer’s could in fact be a repercussion of neglected hearing loss.

In the Canadian study, researchers searched for connections to brain disorders by closely evaluating participants functional capabilities pertaining to memory and thought. 56 percent of individuals assessed for cognitive impairment had mild to extreme hearing loss. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those individuals reported using a hearing aid.

A clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the study’s authors said the findings support anecdotal evidence they’ve observed when seeing patients who are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s. In many instances, it was a patient’s loved ones who suggested the appointment because they observed gaps in memory or diminished attention.

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 dealing with potential mental decline, it’s easy to see how one can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Envision a situation where your friend asks you for a favor. For example, let’s say they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask? Would you ask 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 that line of thinking that leads hearing specialists to believe some people may be diagnosing themselves inaccurately with Alzheimer’s. But it may 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.

Gradual Loss of Hearing is Normal, But There Are Ways to Treat it

Given the link between aging and an increased probability 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) states that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling loss of hearing. 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.

While it’s true that progressive loss of hearing is a normal trait of aging, people commonly just accept it because they believe it’s a part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for someone to seek treatment for hearing loss is about 10 years. Still worse, less than 25 percent of people will end up purchasing hearing aids even when they really need them.

Is it Possible That You Might be Suffering From Hearing Loss?

If you’ve ever truly wondered if 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. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • How often do I have to ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Is hearing consonants difficult?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Do I have to turn up the radio or TV to hear them.
  • Do I try to avoid social situations because holding a conversation in a busy room is difficult?

Science has definitely found a link between loss of hearing and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who noted no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The research found that the worse the loss of hearing at the start of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to weakened memory and thought.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can prevent any misunderstandings between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a routine part of your yearly physical, particularly for those who are over 65 years old.

Do You 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 assessment. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.