Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets regularly tossed around in regards to getting older. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness 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 influenced by numerous elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Mind-altering conditions like dementia are commonly regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently associated as another significant factor in mental decline.

The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing

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

Memory and focus were two of the functions highlighted by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in mental capabilities. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the relevance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a typical part of getting older.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Worry With Hearing Impairment

In another study, those same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only accelerate the process of mental decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of sadness. 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 beginning of the study were more inclined to experience dementia than people with normal hearing. Additionally, the study found a direct relationship between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in people with more extreme hearing loss.

And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of cognitive ability and hearing loss.

International Research Backs up a Relationship Between Loss of Hearing And Mental Decline

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

One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those who had average hearing or peripheral 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.

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

Even though the exact reason for the link 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 about the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and words.

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

What Should You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of cognitive impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And it’s staggering the amount of Us citizens who are in danger.

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

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

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