Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

A term that gets regularly thrown around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology experts call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. A person’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements like memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.

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

The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia

In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that uncovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive ability. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker cognitive decline in individuals who had from hearing loss.

In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in cognitive ability, memory and attention were two of the areas outlined. And though hearing loss is commonly regarded as a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its importance.

Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing

In a different study, those same researchers found that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to 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 suffered from hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more inclined to experience dementia than those who have healthy hearing. Moreover, the study discovered a direct link between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more extreme hearing loss.

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

International Research Backs up 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 ended up with dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further and looked at age related hearing loss by studying two separate causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. Typically, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.

Although researchers were sure about the link between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.

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. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and words.

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

What Should You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Americans who could be at risk is shocking.

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

Fortunately there are ways to minimize these risks with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant enhancement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to see if you need hearing aids.