Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in regards to getting older. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several aspects that go into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is influenced by several factors like memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Mind-altering illnesses such as dementia are commonly thought of as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another major cause of mental decline.

The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers concluded that individuals who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decrease in cognitive function than those who had normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noted a reduction in mental capability, memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined. And though loss of hearing is often regarded as a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its significance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing

In a different study, the same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken the process of mental decline, but is more likely to result in stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. Hospitalization and injury from a fall were also found to be more likely in this study’s participants.

A study of 600 older adults in 2011 concluded that participants who suffered from loss of hearing at the onset of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than people who have normal hearing. And an even more telling statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more extreme hearing loss.

But the work performed by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the link between loss of hearing and a lack of mental aptitude.

A Link Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Backed by International Research

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that dementia will be developed more often and earlier by people who suffer from loss of hearing than by people with average hearing.

One study in Italy went even further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to have cognitive impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.

Even though the cause of the connection between hearing loss and cognitive impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

How Can Loss of Hearing Impact Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in comprehension of speech and words.

The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we get older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of cognitive impairment. It should definitely be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s staggering the amount of Us citizens who are in danger.

Two out of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is considered to be considerable loss of hearing. Even 14 percent of people ages 45 to 64 are affected by hearing loss.

Hearing aids can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function mitigating risks for many people and that’s the good news. 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 specialist.

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