Hearing Loss And Mental Acuity, What is The Link?

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a term that gets commonly tossed around in regards to getting older. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several aspects. One’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements like memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

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

The Connection Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that uncovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline 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 mental decline in people who suffer from loss of hearing.

In the study which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive capability, memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying the significance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a typical part of aging.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Hearing Impairment

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing according to another study. 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 loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Individuals with more severe hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to experience symptoms of dementia.

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

A Link Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Backed 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 frequently and sooner by people who suffer from hearing loss than by people with average hearing.

One study in Italy went even further by analyzing two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. Typically, people struggle to understand words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

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.

Though researchers were sure about the relationship between loss of hearing 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 author 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 theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before processing, alongside associated alterations to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What to do if You Have Hearing Loss

The Italians believe this kind of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Americans who might be in danger is staggering.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with significant hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.

Hearing aids can offer 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 find out if you need hearing aids.

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