Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

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

Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, loss of hearing has also been established as a contributing component in mental decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?

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

Memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive capabilities. And though loss of hearing is often regarded as a typical part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its significance.

Problems From Impaired Hearing Beyond Loss of Memory

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have hearing loss 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 suffer from loss of hearing were less likely to develop dementia than those who did have loss of hearing. Moreover, the study discovered a direct relationship between the severity of loss of hearing and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in people with more severe loss of hearing.

But the work undertaken 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 Link 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 dementia will be developed more often and sooner by people who have loss of hearing than by people with average hearing.

One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. People with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop mental disability than people with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers studied both peripheral and central 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.

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

Even though the exact reason for the link between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.

How Can Hearing Loss Affect Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved 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 prior to processing, alongside associated 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 believe this form of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And it’s shocking the amount of Americans who are in danger.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be considerable loss of hearing. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by hearing loss.

Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating risks for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To see 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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