HEARING TIPS

The Connection Between Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly thrown around in regards to aging. It’s called, by most health care specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. A person’s mental acuity is influenced by several elements like memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

Mind-altering illnesses like dementia are generally thought of as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another significant contributor to cognitive decline.

The Connection Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University uncovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in people who had from hearing loss.

In the study which researchers noted a reduction in mental capability, memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying the significance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a normal aspect of getting older.

Problems From Hearing Impairments Beyond Memory Loss

In another study, the same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken the process of mental 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 didn’t have hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have hearing loss. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in patients with more severe loss of hearing.

But the work done by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the connection between hearing loss 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 developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Individuals who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have mental impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers examined both peripheral and central 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.

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

Although the exact reason for the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

How Can Hearing Loss Affect Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on 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 found 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 grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing

The Italians think this form of mild cognitive impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Us citizens who could be in danger is staggering.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some hearing ability if they are older than 75, with significant hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by hearing loss.

Fortunately there are methods to decrease these dangers 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.
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