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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently tossed around in regards to aging. The majority of health care or psychology experts 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 affected by several elements such as memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Mind-altering conditions such as dementia are usually thought of as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another major contributor to cognitive decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that uncovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker cognitive decline in individuals who suffer from hearing loss.

In the study which researchers noted a reduction in mental capability, memory and focus were two of the aspects outlined. And although loss of hearing is often considered a typical part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.

What Are The Problems From Hearing Impairment Besides Loss of Memory?

Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing according to another study. Additionally, that study’s hearing-impaired participants 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 inclined to develop dementia than people who have normal hearing. Moreover, the study found a direct relationship between the severity of hearing loss and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening affliction. Individuals with more severe hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to suffer symptoms of dementia.

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

International Research Supports a Relationship Between Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline

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 have hearing loss than by those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop cognitive impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to understand words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

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

Even though researchers were sure about the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.

The Way Hearing Loss Can Impact Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about 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 the recognition of speech and words.

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

What to do if You Have Hearing Loss

The Italians think this type of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And it’s staggering the number of Us citizens who are in danger.

Two out of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.

Hearing aids can offer a significant 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 research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.

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