What is The Link Between Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently tossed around in context with getting older. Most health care or psychology experts call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several factors. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the factors that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.

Along with mind altering illnesses like dementia, hearing loss has also been verified as a contributing component in mental decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?

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

Memory and concentration were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive capabilities. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the significance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a normal part of aging.

What Are The Problems From Impaired Hearing Beyond Loss of Memory?

Not only loss of memory 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 those with normal hearing. Additionally, the study found a direct relationship between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more extreme loss of hearing.

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

International Research Backs up 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 people with hearing impairments developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive impairment than those with normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. Typically, 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, people with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.

Though researchers were sure about the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.

The Way Hearing Loss Can Impact Mental Acuity

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in the recognition of speech and words.

The theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information prior to processing, along with associated alterations to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be at risk is shocking.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as considerable hearing loss. Loss of hearing even impacts 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64.

Hearing aids can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
Make an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out if you need hearing aids.

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.