Suspect A Parent Has Dementia? Check Their Hearing First

Dealing with the often frustrating realities of the aging process is tough for anyone. And when you're trying to care for a parent who is beginning to physically and mentally decline—and doesn't want to admit it—the process is made even harder. Many who are in the earliest stages of dementia are able to artfully conceal their confusion from their closest loved ones until their condition worsens, which can make the decline seem even steeper.

However, not all confusion is the result of dementia. For many seniors, hearing loss can mimic the early signs of dementia, and failure to promptly diagnose and treat this hearing loss could accelerate the decline of cognitive and physical faculties. And with a full one-third of the over-65 population suffering from hearing loss, the need for hearing aids during one's senior years is incredibly common. Read on to learn more about how the symptoms of hearing loss can mimic dementia and what you should do if you'd like to have a parent evaluated for hearing loss.

Which Symptoms of Hearing Loss Mimic Dementia?

There is quite a bit of overlap between the symptoms of these two discrete conditions. Some symptoms that can plausibly be a sign of either hearing loss or dementia include:

  • Struggling to follow a conversation
  • Asking people to repeat themselves (and, perhaps, still not understanding them)
  • A change in personality (for example, a normally gregarious person may become quieter or more reserved; a soft-spoken person may start speaking at shouting volume)
  • Ignoring direct requests
  • Repeating what others have said, seemingly without realizing the other person has said it.

While these symptoms can all be alarming to close family members who may worry that their parent is losing mental acuity, they often indicate hearing loss. The earlier both hearing loss and dementia are diagnosed, the more treatment options your parent will have—from ear irrigation or hearing aids to prescription medications and in-home nursing assistance.

What Should You Do to Have Your Parent Evaluated?

If you're not sure whether your parent is dealing with hearing loss, dementia, or something else entirely, the best place to begin is with his or her primary care physician. This physician can perform a hearing test and a cognitive test to see whether an audiologist referral is necessary. If your parent does have some degree of hearing loss, an audiologist can perform further tests and determine which types of hearing aids will provide the most benefit.

Contact a clinic, like Waters ENT Sinus & Allergy, for more help.