Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A phrase that gets regularly tossed around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. Most health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the factors that can contribute to a person’s mental acuity.

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

The Connection Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that discover a relationship between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that individuals who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster 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 noticed a reduction in cognitive capabilities. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the significance of loss of hearing just because it’s regarded as a typical aspect of aging.

What Are The Concerns From Hearing Impairment Besides Memory Loss?

In another study, the same researchers found that a case of impaired hearing could not only accelerate the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to result in stress, depression or periods of sadness. 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to experience dementia than people who have normal hearing. Moreover, the study discovered a direct correlation between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Individuals with more extreme loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to suffer symptoms of dementia.

And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also brought attention to the loss of mental aptitude and hearing loss.

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

One study in Italy took it a step further and looked at age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. People with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have mental disability than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to understand words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

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

Though the cause of the link between loss of hearing and cognitive impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

The Way Loss of Hearing Can Affect 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 emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are situated above the ear and are involved 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 prior to processing, alongside concurrent alterations to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

The Italians think this kind of mild mental 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 amount of Us citizens who are in danger.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is regarded as considerable loss of hearing. Loss of hearing even affects 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.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care expert.