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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently tossed around in context with getting older. The majority of health care or psychology specialists call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several aspects. One’s mental acuity is impacted by several factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Mind-altering conditions like dementia are generally thought of as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently associated as another major cause of cognitive decline.

The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University discovered a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a reduction in cognitive ability. 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 loss of hearing.

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

What Are The Problems From Hearing Impairment Besides Memory Loss?

In a different study, those same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing could not only accelerate the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. Additionally, 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 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 loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in people with more extreme loss of hearing.

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

International Research Backs up a Connection Between Hearing Loss And Mental 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 people with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that individuals with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those with normal hearing or peripheral 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, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.

Even though the exact reason for the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairment is still unknown, 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 functions as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Should You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian study, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. It should definitely be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the number of Americans who are at risk.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some hearing ability if they are older than 75, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care expert.