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Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently tossed around in regards to getting older. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the factors that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.

Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, loss of hearing has also been established as a contributing component in mental decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

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

In the study which researchers observed a reduction in mental capability, memory and focus were two of the areas outlined. And though loss of hearing is often regarded as a normal part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its relevance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Worry With Hearing Impairment

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. In addition, that study’s hearing-impaired individuals 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 suffer from hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more telling statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct correlation. People with more extreme loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.

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

A Link Between Mental Decline And Loss of Hearing is Backed by International Research

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

One study in Italy went even further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive disability than those who had average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, usually struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.

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.

Though the exact reason for the link between loss of hearing and cognitive impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.

How Can Loss of Hearing Affect 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 which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are positioned above the ear and are involved in the comprehension of spoken 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.

What Should You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

The Italians think this form of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And it’s shocking the amount of Americans who are at risk.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64.

Fortunately there are ways to minimize these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant improvement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.