Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets frequently thrown around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. Most health care or psychology experts call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several factors. A person’s mental acuity is impacted by several elements such as memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Mind-altering illnesses such as dementia are commonly considered the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently linked as another major contributor to cognitive decline.

The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University found a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers concluded that individuals who suffered from 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 functions outlined by the study in which researchers noticed a reduction in mental abilities. And although hearing loss is usually regarded as a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its significance.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Worry With Hearing Impairment

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop dementia than people with healthy 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 individuals with more severe loss of hearing.

But the work carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the connection between hearing loss and a lack of mental aptitude.

International Research Backs up a Connection 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 frequently and earlier by people who have hearing loss than by those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have cognitive disability than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after scientists examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to understand 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.

Though researchers were sure about the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.

How Can Loss of Hearing Affect Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around 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 are involved 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 parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of cognitive impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Americans who are at risk.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as considerable loss of hearing. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

Hearing aids can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing dangers for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To see if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care professional.

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