Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets commonly tossed around in regards to getting older. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several factors that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just some of the factors that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.

Mind-altering ailments like dementia are generally regarded as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another major contributor to mental decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study which discovered a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers found that individuals who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.

Memory and concentration were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers noticed a reduction in mental abilities. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a typical part of getting older.

Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Besides Loss of Memory

In a different study, those same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only speed up 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 beginning of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than those with normal hearing. Additionally, the study found a direct correlation between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more severe hearing loss.

But the work undertaken 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.

International Research Backs up a Correlation Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline

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

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that individuals with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those who had 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 the cause of the link between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

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. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are positioned above the ear and are involved in the recognition of spoken words.

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

What Should You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

The Italians believe this type of mild mental impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who may be in danger is staggering.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.

Fortunately there are methods to minimize these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant improvement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care professional.

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