What is The Connection Between Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in context with aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. One’s mental acuity is influenced by numerous factors such as memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

Mind-altering ailments such as dementia are generally considered the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently linked as another major contributor to cognitive decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?

In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University discovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers concluded that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in mental function than those with normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noted a decrease in cognitive capability, memory and attention were two of the areas highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the significance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a typical aspect of getting older.

Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than those who have healthy hearing. Additionally, the study discovered a direct relationship between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more extreme hearing loss.

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

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

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that dementia will be developed more frequently and earlier by people who have loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop mental impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

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

Even though researchers were sure about the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.

How Can Hearing Loss Impact 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 situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in the recognition of speech and words.

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

What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And it’s staggering the number of Us citizens who are at risk.

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

Hearing aids can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for many people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.