Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss, What is The Link?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets regularly thrown 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 go into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is affected by several factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

Mind-altering conditions such as dementia are usually regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently linked as another significant contributor to cognitive decline.

The Connection Between Dementia And Your Hearing

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

Memory and focus were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive abilities. One Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying the importance of hearing loss just because it’s considered a typical part of getting older.

What Are The Problems From Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss?

Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have 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 suffered from hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely to experience dementia than people with healthy hearing. Moreover, the study found a direct link between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Individuals with more severe loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.

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

International Research Backs up a Connection Between Loss of Hearing And Cognitive Decline

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

One study in Italy took it a step further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop cognitive impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was determined 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 comprehend the words they can hear.

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

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

The Way Hearing Loss Can Affect 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 author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are positioned above the ear and play a role 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 areas of the temporal cortex which may 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 mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.

Two out of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of those from 45 to 65.

The good news is that there are ways to minimize these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant improvement in hearing function for many people. 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 professional.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.