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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A phrase that gets regularly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is impacted by several elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

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

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that discovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a reduction in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers found that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.

In the study which researchers observed a decrease in mental capability, memory and focus were two of the areas outlined. And although hearing loss is usually regarded as a natural part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.

Complications From Hearing Impairments Beyond Memory Loss

Not only loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with hearing loss according to another study. 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 those who did have hearing loss. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in people with more severe hearing loss.

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

International Research Supports 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 those with hearing impairments developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further by examining two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop mental disability than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, usually 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 researchers were sure about the link between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.

The Way Loss of Hearing Can Impact Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated 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 could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of cognitive impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the number of Us citizens who are at risk.

Two out of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.

Hearing aids can offer a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating risks for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.

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