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What is The Connection Between Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly thrown around in regards to getting older. Most health care or psychology specialists call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the factors that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.

Mind-altering conditions such as dementia are usually regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another significant cause of mental decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers concluded that individuals who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive capability, memory and attention were two of the areas outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the relevance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a typical part of aging.

Complications From Hearing Impairments Besides Memory Loss

Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, 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 didn’t have loss of hearing were less likely to develop dementia than those who did have loss of hearing. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. People with more severe loss of hearing 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 mental aptitude and hearing loss.

International Research Backs up 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 loss of hearing than by those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that individuals with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.

Scores on cognitive tests involving memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

Although the cause of the link between hearing loss and cognitive 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 about the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are found above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken words.

The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?

The Italians believe 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 it’s shocking the number of Americans who are in danger.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as significant loss of hearing. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64.

The good news is that there are methods to decrease these dangers with a hearing aid, which can offer a considerable improvement 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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