Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A phrase that gets commonly thrown around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to comprehend or understand are just a few of the areas that can contribute to a person’s mental acuity.

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

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?

In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study which discovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a reduction in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 over a six-year span, researchers concluded that participants 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 functions highlighted by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in mental capabilities. And though hearing loss is commonly regarded as a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its importance.

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

Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing according to another study. 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 have loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. Additionally, the study found a direct relationship between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in patients with more severe hearing loss.

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

International Research Supports a Correlation Between Loss of Hearing And Mental Decline

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that individuals with hearing impairments ended up with dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by examining two separate causes. Individuals who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to have cognitive impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists examined both peripheral and central 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.

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

Though the exact reason for the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

How Can Hearing Loss Affect Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on 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 situated above the ear and are involved in the recognition of spoken words.

The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and undergoes 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 cognitive 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 number of Us citizens who are in danger.

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 considered to be considerable hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.

Fortunately there are ways to mitigate these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant improvement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
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