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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets frequently tossed around in regards to aging. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several factors. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just some of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.

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

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which uncovered a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. 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 suffer from loss of hearing.

Memory and focus were two of the functions highlighted by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive abilities. And though hearing loss is commonly considered a normal part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its relevance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Hearing Impairment

Not only loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with 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 suffer from hearing loss were less likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have hearing loss. Moreover, the study found a direct link 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 probable in individuals with more extreme hearing loss.

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

International Research Supports a Relationship Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that people with hearing loss ended up with dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further by examining two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive impairment than those who had 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.

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.

Though researchers were sure about the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.

The Way Loss of Hearing Can Impact Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on 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 situated 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 get older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

The Italians think this kind of mild cognitive impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the number of Us citizens who are at risk.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be significant hearing loss. Even 14 percent of people ages 45 to 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.

Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for most people and that’s the good news. 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.