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What is The Link Between Hearing Loss And Mental Acuity?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets regularly thrown around in context with aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is influenced by numerous factors like memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

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

The Connection Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University discover a link between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in people who had from loss of hearing.

Memory and focus were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers noticed a reduction in mental capabilities. And though loss of hearing is often considered a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its importance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Worry With Hearing Impairment

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing according to another study. In addition, 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 hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely 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 relationship. Participants with more extreme 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 brought attention to the loss of mental ability and hearing loss.

A Link Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Backed 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 frequently and sooner by people who have loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded 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 understand the words they can hear.

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.

Although the cause of the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

The Way Hearing Loss Can 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 which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are located above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken words.

The theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which functions as a receiver of information prior to processing, alongside associated modifications to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

If You Have Loss of Hearing, What Can You do?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And it’s staggering the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with significant hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.

Fortunately there are ways to decrease these dangers with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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