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What is The Relationship Between Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets commonly thrown around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. 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. One’s mental acuity is impacted by numerous elements like memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

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

The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a link between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers concluded that individuals who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in mental 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 capabilities. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the relevance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a typical aspect of getting older.

Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss

In another study, those same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only speed up the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to 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 hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia than those with healthy hearing. Additionally, the study discovered a direct correlation 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 patients with more severe hearing loss.

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

A Correlation Between Mental Decline And Loss of Hearing is Supported by International Research

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 investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to have mental disability than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, normally struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.

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

Although the cause of the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.

The Way Loss of Hearing Can Impact Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about 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 play a role in the comprehension of spoken words.

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

What to do if You Have Hearing Loss

The Italians think this form of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should definitely be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Americans who might be at risk is staggering.

Two out of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be considerable hearing loss. Loss of hearing even affects 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

The good news is that there are ways to mitigate these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant improvement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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