Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in context with getting older. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the areas that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.

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

The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that discover a relationship between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decrease in cognitive function than those who had normal hearing.

Memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in mental capabilities. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a typical aspect of getting older.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Worry With Impaired Hearing

Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with hearing loss according to another study. In addition, 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 hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely to experience dementia than those who have healthy hearing. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more extreme hearing loss.

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

International Research Supports a Relationship Between Loss of Hearing And Cognitive Decline

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

One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that individuals with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive impairment than those who had average hearing or peripheral 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 those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.

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

How Can Loss of Hearing 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 found above the ear and are involved in the comprehension of spoken words.

The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which functions as a receiver of information prior to processing, alongside associated modifications to the memory parts 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?

The Italians believe this type of mild mental impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should definitely be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Us citizens who could be in danger is staggering.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as considerable loss of hearing. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.

Hearing aids can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing dangers for many people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To see if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.