Latest posts by Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA (see all)
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Have you noticed that a loved one is struggling to remember things? You may be worried about a possible Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, and Alzheimer’s is one of the most common chronic illnesses in the US. While memory loss is often an early warning sign of dementia, it could also be pointing towards something else: hearing loss.
Studying Memory Loss and Hearing
Dr. Susan Vandermorris, a neuropsychologist as Baycrest, recently published an article in the Canadian Journal of Aging looking at the links between memory loss and hearing. She discovered that what might seem to be signs of memory loss, or early warning signs of dementia, could actually be due to hearing loss, and not a degenerative brain disease. “We commonly see clients who are worried about Alzheimer’s disease because their partner complains that they don’t seem to pay attention, they don’t seem to listen or they don’t remember what is said to them,” explains Dr. Vandermorris. “Sometimes addressing hearing loss may mitigate or fix what looks like a memory issue. An individual isn’t going to remember something said to them if they didn’t hear it properly.”
How Common is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a lot more common than you might think, and around 40 million Americans struggle to hear. Hearing loss is especially common among older adults, with half of all seniors over the age of 75 straining to follow conversations or hear clearly. Since older adults are also the most likely to have Alzheimer’s disease, it’s no wonder you might attribute your loved one’s difficulty remembering to dementia rather than hearing loss.
Many seniors choose not to get their hearing tested, or not to treat their hearing loss, thinking they’re not missing too many sounds, or that hearing loss isn’t impacting their lives. Sadly, living with untreated hearing loss leads to a host of problems, from difficulty following conversations to broken relationships, social isolation, anxiety, and even depression. Recognizing and treating hearing loss is extremely important to maintain quality of life.
If you think that your loved one isn’t remembering things, schedule a hearing test! You may both be surprised to learn that your loved one is struggling to hear. “Some people may be reluctant to address hearing loss, but they need to be aware that hearing health is brain health and help is available,” says Dr. Vandermorris.
While signs of memory loss could be pointing to hearing loss, living with untreated hearing loss is actually extremely bad for your brain, and when you’re straining to hear, the brain gets overloaded and can’t process information clearly, leading to confusion, and difficulty focusing on tasks. The social isolation that often accompanies hearing loss also affects brain health, and those with hearing loss are far more likely to experience dementia or Alzheimer’s disease! When your loved one is isolated, they don’t have as much social interaction, their brain gets less exercise, they struggle even more to communicate, and brain health suffers.
You may have misdiagnosed your loved one with dementia, but if they continue to live with untreated hearing loss, that diagnosis may well become a reality.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you’re loved one is struggling to remember a conversation you had yesterday, or an appointment coming up next week, talk to them about their hearing health, and schedule a hearing test. Hearing plays a crucial role in brain health, especially among seniors. Don’t chalk up their memory loss as a sign of an aging brain, but consider that the symptoms of memory loss could actually be pointing to hearing loss.
At Encore Hearing, our team of hearing health specialists will give you a comprehensive hearing exam, testing your ability to hear high- and low-pitched sounds, as well as your speech recognition. Once we’ve determined your unique hearing needs, we’ll recommend the perfect device that will match your hearing needs, as well as fitting seamlessly into your lifestyle, providing clear hearing where you need it the most. Are you struggling to remember what was said during a meeting at work, or feel like you just didn’t hear it in the first place? Are you having difficulty having conversations with your children?