Hearing Loss And Mental Acuity, What is The Link?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets commonly thrown around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the areas that can contribute to one’s mental acuity.

Mind-altering ailments like dementia are generally considered the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently associated as another major factor in cognitive decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

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

In the study which researchers noted a reduction in mental ability, memory and concentration were two of the aspects outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying the significance of hearing loss just because it’s considered a normal aspect of aging.

Complications Due to Hearing Impairments Besides Memory Loss

In another study, the same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only accelerate the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. In addition, that study’s hearing-impaired individuals were more likely to become hospitalized or injured in a fall.

A study of 600 older adults in 2011 concluded that participants who didn’t suffer from loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more revealing statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in people with more extreme loss of hearing.

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

International Research Supports 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 by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop cognitive disability than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, normally struggle to understand the words they can hear.

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

Though the exact reason for the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.

How Can Loss of Hearing 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 comprehension of speech and words.

The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we get older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What to 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. It should definitely be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Americans 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.

The good news is that there are ways to mitigate these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a considerable enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To see if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care professional.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.