Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A phrase that gets regularly thrown around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several factors that play into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements such as memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, hearing loss has also been established 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 found a connection between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in people who had from loss of hearing.

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

Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Hearing Impairment

Not just memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have 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 onset of the study were more inclined to experience dementia than people who have normal hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct relationship. Participants with more extreme loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to experience symptoms of dementia.

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

A Connection Between Mental Decline And Loss of Hearing 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 sooner by people who suffer from loss of hearing than by people with average hearing.

One study in Italy went even further by examining two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to understand the words they can hear.

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

Even though the cause of the link between loss of hearing and mental 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. 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 found above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken words.

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

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Should You do?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of cognitive impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And the number of Us citizens who could be in danger is staggering.

Two out of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is considered to be significant hearing loss. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

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