Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly thrown around in regards to 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 consideration several factors. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.

Along with 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, research out of Johns Hopkins University revealed a relationship between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that participants who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.

Memory and focus were two of the functions outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive abilities. And although loss of hearing is usually considered a typical part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Worry With Hearing Impairment

In a different study, those same researchers found that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. Additionally, 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 have loss of hearing were less likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. Moreover, the study found a direct correlation between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening affliction. People with more severe loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to experience symptoms of dementia.

But the work undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the link between loss of hearing and a lack of cognitive aptitude.

A Correlation Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Backed 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 normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop cognitive disability than people with central hearing loss. This was concluded 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.

Scores on cognitive tests involving memory and thought were lower in participants who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

Although researchers were confident in the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.

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 researcher highlighted 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 theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before processing, alongside concurrent alterations to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Should You do?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. It should definitely be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.

Two of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be significant hearing loss. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.

Hearing aids can provide a significant 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 research.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care expert.