Hearing Loss And Mental Acuity, What is The Connection?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets regularly thrown around in regards to aging. Most health care or psychology specialists call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just some of the areas that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.

Besides mind altering disorders like dementia, loss of hearing has also been established as a contributing factor for mental decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?

In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University discover a link between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. 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 areas highlighted by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive abilities. And although hearing loss is often considered a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its importance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing

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. Additionally, that study’s hearing-impaired participants were more likely to become hospitalized or injured in a fall.

A study of 600 older adults in 2011 concluded that participants who suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more inclined to experience dementia than people with normal hearing. Additionally, the study found a direct correlation between the severity of loss of hearing and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more extreme hearing loss.

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 abilities.

A Correlation 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 those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.

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

Even though researchers were confident in the connection between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation is still unknown.

How Can Loss of Hearing Impact Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in comprehension of speech and words.

The theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before 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?

The Italians believe this form of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should definitely be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s staggering the number of Americans who are at risk.

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

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 make 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.