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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 specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is impacted by several factors such as memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

Along with 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, research out of Johns Hopkins University uncovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker cognitive decline in individuals who suffer from loss of hearing.

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

Complications From Hearing Impairments Beyond Memory Loss

In a different study, those same researchers found that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of mental decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. Additionally, that study’s hearing-impaired participants 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 inclined to experience dementia than people with 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 correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in patients with more extreme loss of hearing.

And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of mental aptitude and hearing loss.

International Research Supports a Correlation 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 sooner by people who suffer from hearing loss than by those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. 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 concluded after researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to understand the words they can hear.

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

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

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. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in comprehension of speech and words.

The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and undergoes 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.

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?

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 be serious about And the number of Americans who may be at risk is staggering.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is considered to be significant hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by loss of hearing.

The good news is that there are ways to minimize these risks with a hearing aid, which can provide a considerable enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you need hearing aids.

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