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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets frequently thrown around in context with aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to comprehend or understand are just a few of the factors that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.

Besides mind altering conditions like dementia, loss of hearing has also been verified as a contributing factor for mental decline.

The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a link between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that participants who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decrease in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.

Memory and focus were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers noted 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 aspect of getting older.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing

Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to experience dementia than those who have healthy hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more severe hearing loss.

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

International Research Backs up a Correlation Between Loss of Hearing And Cognitive Decline

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that people with hearing loss developed dementia more frequently and sooner than 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 mental disability than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, normally struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.

In the Italian study, individuals 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 link between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.

How Can Loss of Hearing Impact Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher highlighted 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 serves as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we get older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Should You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is related to a mild form of mental impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Americans who could be in danger is shocking.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with considerable loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Loss of hearing even affects 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64.

Fortunately there are methods to decrease these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.

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