Hearing Health Blog

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets regularly thrown around in context with aging. Most health care or psychology specialists call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few factors that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to comprehend or understand are just a few of the factors that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.

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

The Connection Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study which uncovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 found 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 capability, memory and attention were two of the aspects highlighted. And although hearing loss is often regarded as a typical part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its relevance.

Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss

In another study, those same researchers discovered 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. Hospitalization and injury from a fall were also found to be more likely in this study’s participants.

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. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct correlation. People with more extreme hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.

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

A Connection 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 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 by examining two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive disability than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to understand the words they can hear.

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

Although the exact reason for the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive impairment is still unknown, 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 that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and words.

The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before processing, alongside concurrent modifications to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing

The Italians think this kind of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Us citizens who might be at risk is shocking.

Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be considerable hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.

Hearing aids can offer a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for many 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 specialist to find out if you need hearing aids.

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