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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets regularly tossed around in regards to aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several aspects. Memory, concentration and the ability to comprehend or understand are just some of the factors that can contribute to a person’s mental acuity.

Mind-altering illnesses such as dementia are commonly regarded as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another major contributor to cognitive decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that found a relationship between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers concluded that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in mental function than those with normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noticed a decrease in mental capability, memory and focus were two of the aspects highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying the relevance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a normal part of aging.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing

Not just memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than people with healthy hearing. And an even more revealing statistic from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more severe loss of hearing.

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

International Research Supports a Relationship Between Loss of Hearing And Cognitive Decline

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that individuals with hearing loss 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 different causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.

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

Even though the cause of the connection between hearing loss and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.

The Way Loss of Hearing Can Affect Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around 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 positioned above the ear and are involved in the recognition of spoken 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 alterations to the memory parts 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 type of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And it’s shocking the number of Americans who are in danger.

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 hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.

The good news is that there are ways to decrease these risks with a hearing aid, which can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To see if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care professional.