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Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss, What is The Connection?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A phrase that gets frequently tossed around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that go into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is impacted by numerous factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

Along with mind altering conditions like dementia, hearing loss has also been confirmed as a contributing component in mental decline.

The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University uncovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers found that individuals who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in cognitive function than those who had normal hearing.

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

What Are The Concerns From Hearing Impairment Beyond Loss of Memory?

In another study, those same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken the process of mental decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. 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 hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely to experience dementia than those who have normal hearing. Moreover, the study discovered a direct link between the severity of hearing loss and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more extreme loss of hearing.

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

A Correlation 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 dementia will be developed more frequently and sooner by people who have hearing loss than by those with average hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. People with 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 researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to understand words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

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

Though researchers were confident in the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.

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 which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are found above the ear and are involved in the recognition of spoken words.

The auditory cortex functions 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.

What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is related to a mild form of mental impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens 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 considerable loss of hearing. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.

Fortunately there are ways to minimize these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide 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 schedule an appointment with a hearing care expert.

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