Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets frequently tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just some of the areas that can contribute to one’s mental acuity.

Along with mind altering illnesses like dementia, hearing loss has also been verified as a contributing factor for mental decline.

The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University discovered a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers concluded that individuals who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in mental function than those with normal hearing.

Memory and concentration were two of the functions outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive abilities. And although hearing loss is commonly considered a normal part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its importance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing

In another study, those same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only speed up the process of cognitive 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 those with healthy hearing. Moreover, the study discovered a direct link between the severity of hearing loss and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more extreme hearing loss.

And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of mental ability and hearing loss.

A Connection Between Mental Decline And Loss of Hearing is Supported by International Research

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

One study in Italy took it a step further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive disability than those with normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with 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 pertaining to memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

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

The Way Loss of Hearing Can 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 author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are found above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken 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 to do if You Have Hearing Loss

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And the number of Us citizens who might be in danger is shocking.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

The good news is that there are ways to mitigate these risks with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant improvement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To see if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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