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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A phrase that gets commonly tossed around in context with getting older 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 aspects. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.

Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, loss of hearing has also been verified 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 that uncovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker cognitive decline in people who had from hearing loss.

Memory and focus were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in mental abilities. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the relevance of hearing loss just because it’s considered a normal part of aging.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Worry With Hearing Impairment

Not only loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in those that have hearing loss 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 onset of the study were more likely to experience dementia than people with healthy 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 relationship. People with more severe hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to suffer symptoms of dementia.

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

A Connection Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Supported by International Research

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

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two separate causes. Individuals who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have cognitive disability than people with central hearing loss. This was determined after scientists examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, 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, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.

Though researchers were sure about the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.

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 author highlighted 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 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 think this form 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 the number of Americans who might be in danger is staggering.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as considerable hearing loss. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by hearing loss.

Fortunately there are ways to mitigate these dangers with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant improvement in hearing function for most people. 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 expert.

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