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Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets regularly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that go into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just a few of the areas that can contribute to a person’s mental acuity.

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

The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which uncovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers concluded that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in cognitive function than those who had normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noticed a decrease in mental ability, memory and concentration were two of the areas highlighted. And though hearing loss is commonly regarded as a typical part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its significance.

Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss

In a different study, the same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken 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 loss of hearing at the onset of the study were more inclined to experience dementia than people who have healthy hearing. And an even more revealing statistic 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 individuals with more extreme loss of hearing.

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

International Research Supports a Connection Between Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline

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 and investigated age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop mental disability than people with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to understand the words they can hear.

Scores on cognitive tests pertaining to memory and thought were lower in participants who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

Though the cause of the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive impairment is still unknown, 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 researcher emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are situated 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 functions as a receiver of information before processing, alongside concurrent modifications to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Should You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And it’s shocking the amount of Americans who are at risk.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with significant hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Loss of hearing even affects 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.

Fortunately there are ways to minimize these dangers 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.
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