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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently thrown around in regards to aging. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is impacted by numerous factors such as memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Mind-altering conditions such as dementia are commonly considered the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently linked as another major cause of cognitive decline.

The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline 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 hearing loss.

In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in mental ability, memory and focus were two of the aspects highlighted. And although hearing loss is often regarded as a natural part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its importance.

What Are The Concerns From Hearing Impairment Besides Memory Loss?

In a different study, those same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only speed up the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to result in stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than people who have normal hearing. Additionally, the study discovered a direct relationship between the severity of loss of hearing and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more extreme loss of hearing.

But the work undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the relationship between hearing loss and a lack of cognitive abilities.

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

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

One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by studying two separate causes. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop mental 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.

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.

Even though researchers were sure about the link between hearing loss 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. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and 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 areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Should You do?

The Italians believe this form of mild mental impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Us citizens who might be in danger is shocking.

Two of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as considerable loss of hearing. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

The good news is that there are methods to minimize these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant enhancement 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 professional.

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