Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently tossed around in context with aging. Most health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. One’s mental acuity is influenced by numerous factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

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

The Link Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University found a link between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. 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 people who had from hearing loss.

In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in mental capability, memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the relevance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a normal aspect of aging.

What Are The Concerns From Impaired Hearing Besides Loss of Memory?

In a different study, the same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only accelerate the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to result in stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. 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 individuals 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 relationship. Individuals with more extreme loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.

But the work performed by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the link between loss of hearing and a lack of mental aptitude.

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

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

One study in Italy took it a step further by studying two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those who had average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, usually struggle to understand the words they can hear.

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.

Although researchers were sure about the link between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.

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. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in comprehension of speech and words.

The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we grow older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Americans who could be in danger is staggering.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some hearing ability if they are older than 75, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.

Hearing aids can provide a significant 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.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out if you need hearing aids.