Hearing Health Blog

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets commonly thrown around in regards to getting older. It’s called, by most health care specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements such as memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

Mind-altering illnesses such as dementia are usually considered the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently associated as another significant cause of cognitive decline.

The Connection Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that discover a relationship between dementia, a loss 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 faster mental decline in individuals who had from hearing loss.

In the study which researchers observed a decrease in cognitive ability, memory and attention were two of the aspects outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of loss of hearing just because it’s regarded as a typical aspect of getting older.

Problems From Hearing Impairments Beyond Memory Loss

Not just memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing according to another study. 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 didn’t have hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. Additionally, the study found a direct correlation between the severity of hearing loss and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening condition. People with more severe hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to suffer symptoms of dementia.

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

A Link Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Supported by International Research

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that those with hearing impairments developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

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

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

Though researchers were confident in the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation is still unknown.

The Way Loss of Hearing Can Impact Mental Acuity

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

The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we get older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Should You do?

The Italians believe this kind of mild cognitive impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some hearing ability if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is regarded as significant hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by loss of hearing.

Hearing aids can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to find out if you need hearing aids.

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