Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets regularly tossed around in regards to aging. Most health care or psychology specialists call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that go into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the factors that can contribute to one’s mental acuity.

Mind-altering ailments such as dementia are generally thought of as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another major factor in cognitive decline.

The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that found a relationship between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers concluded that participants who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decrease in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in mental capability, memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined. And though loss of hearing is commonly considered a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its relevance.

Complications From Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing 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 didn’t suffer from loss of hearing were less likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct relationship. Participants with more extreme 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 Relationship Between Loss of Hearing And Mental Decline

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that people with hearing loss developed 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 examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those with normal hearing or peripheral 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, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.

Though researchers were sure about the link between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.

How Can Hearing Loss 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 goes through changes as we get older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

The Italians believe this form of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some hearing ability if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is regarded as significant hearing loss. Loss of hearing even affects 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.

Hearing aids can offer a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for many people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.

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