Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets regularly thrown around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few factors that play into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Besides mind altering disorders like dementia, hearing loss has also been verified as a contributing component in mental decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which found a relationship between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers concluded that individuals who suffered from hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive ability, memory and attention were two of the areas outlined. And though loss of hearing is usually considered a normal part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its significance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Worry With Hearing Impairment

In a different study, those same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken 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 didn’t suffer from hearing loss were less likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more revealing statistic from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more extreme hearing loss.

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

A Link 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 dementia will be developed more often and sooner by people who have hearing loss than by people with normal hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two separate causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. Typically, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

Scores on cognitive tests pertaining to memory and thought were lower in participants who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

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

The Way Hearing Loss Can Affect 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 which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are found above the ear and are involved in the comprehension of spoken words.

The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and undergoes 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 Can You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of cognitive impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And the number of Us citizens who may be at risk is staggering.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is regarded as significant hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are affected by hearing loss.

Hearing aids can offer a significant 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 study.
Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you need hearing aids.

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