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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets regularly tossed around in regards to getting older. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just a few of the areas that can contribute to one’s mental acuity.

Mind-altering illnesses like dementia are generally regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another major factor in cognitive decline.

The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a connection between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in individuals who had from loss of hearing.

In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in cognitive capability, memory and concentration were two of the aspects highlighted. And though hearing loss is often considered a normal part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its significance.

Problems Due to Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss

Not just memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in those that have hearing loss according to another study. In addition, that study’s hearing-impaired individuals were more likely to become hospitalized or injured in a fall.

A study of 600 older adults in 2011 concluded that participants who suffered from hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to experience dementia than those with healthy hearing. And an even more telling statistic from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. People with more severe hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to experience symptoms of dementia.

And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also brought attention to the loss of cognitive aptitude and hearing loss.

International Research Supports a Connection Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that those with hearing loss developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two separate causes. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop mental impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, normally struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.

Scores on cognitive tests involving memory and thought were lower in participants who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

Even though the exact reason for the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

The Way Hearing Loss Can Impact Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are located above the ear and are involved in the comprehension of spoken words.

The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be at risk is staggering.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as significant loss of hearing. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

Fortunately there are methods to minimize these risks with a hearing aid, which can provide a considerable enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To see if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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