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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets commonly thrown around in regards to getting older. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that go into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to comprehend or understand are just a few of the factors that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.

Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, hearing loss has also been verified as a contributing factor for mental decline.

The Connection Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a reduction in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers found that individuals who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.

Memory and focus were two of the functions highlighted by the study in which researchers noticed a reduction in cognitive abilities. And although loss of hearing is commonly considered a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its significance.

Problems From Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have 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 have loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. Moreover, the study discovered a direct link between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more severe loss of hearing.

But the work undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the connection between loss of hearing and a lack of mental 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 people with hearing impairments ended up with dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further and looked at age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. Individuals who have 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 scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Typically, 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 confident in the connection between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation is still unknown.

How Can Loss of Hearing Impact 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 author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in comprehension of speech and words.

The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we get older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. It should definitely be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Us citizens who might be at risk is shocking.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with significant hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of people ages 45 to 64 are affected by loss of hearing.

Hearing aids can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for many people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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