Hearing Loss And Mental Acuity, What is The Relationship?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently thrown around in context with aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several factors that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the factors that can contribute to one’s mental acuity.

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

The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that found a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a reduction in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 found 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 outlined by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive capabilities. And although hearing loss is often considered a normal part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Hearing Impairment

Not just memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing according to another study. 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 suffered from hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely to experience dementia than those who have healthy hearing. Additionally, the study discovered a direct link 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 severe hearing loss.

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

International Research Supports 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 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 examining two separate causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that individuals with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive disability than those who had average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly 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 sure about the connection between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.

How Can Hearing Loss 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 researcher 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 comprehension of spoken words.

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

What Should You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be in danger is shocking.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some ability to hear if they are over the age of 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is considered to be considerable hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by loss of hearing.

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 see 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.