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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets regularly 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 a few aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is impacted by several elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

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

The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a connection between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker cognitive decline in individuals who suffer from loss of hearing.

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

Complications From Hearing Impairments Besides Loss of Memory

Not just memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with hearing loss according to another study. In addition, that study’s hearing-impaired participants were more likely to become hospitalized or injured in a fall.

A study of 600 older adults in 2011 concluded that participants who didn’t have loss of hearing were less likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have hearing loss. Moreover, the study found a direct relationship between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more severe 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 Backed 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 often and sooner by people who have hearing loss than by people with average hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. People with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop mental impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists 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 pertaining to memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

Although researchers were sure about the link between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.

The Way Hearing Loss 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 researcher highlighted 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 comprehension of spoken words.

The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before processing, alongside concurrent alterations to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

The Italians think this kind of mild mental impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should definitely be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are in danger.

Two out of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is regarded as considerable hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are affected by loss of hearing.

The good news is that there are methods to minimize these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a considerable 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 make an appointment with a hearing care professional.