Hearing Health Blog

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A phrase that gets commonly tossed around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. One’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

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

The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing

In fact, research conducted by Johns Hopkins University discovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers concluded that individuals who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.

Memory and focus were two of the functions highlighted by the study in which researchers noticed a reduction in cognitive abilities. And though hearing loss is commonly considered a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its significance.

Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing

In another study, the same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only speed up the process of mental 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 suffer from hearing loss were less likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. Additionally, the study found a direct relationship between the severity of hearing loss and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more severe loss of hearing.

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

A Link Between Mental Decline And Loss of Hearing 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 those with average hearing.

One study in Italy went even further by studying 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 had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive impairment than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to understand the words they can hear.

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

Even though the exact reason for the link between hearing loss and cognitive impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.

The Way Hearing Loss Can Affect 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 researcher 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 recognition of spoken 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 could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Hearing Loss?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And it’s staggering the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.

Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.

The good news is that there are ways to mitigate these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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