A term that gets frequently 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 account several factors. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.
Mind-altering illnesses such as dementia are generally regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently associated as another major cause of mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which revealed a link between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers found that individuals who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decrease in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noted a decrease in mental capability, memory and focus were two of the areas highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the importance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a normal part of aging.
What Are The Problems From Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss?
In another study, the same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing 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 individuals who did have hearing loss. And an even more telling statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in individuals with more extreme hearing loss.
But the work carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the relationship between loss of hearing and a lack of cognitive aptitude.
International Research Supports 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 dementia will be developed more often and earlier by people who suffer from loss of hearing than by people with average hearing.
One study in Italy went even further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to have mental impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Though the exact reason for the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.
How Can Loss of Hearing Impact 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 which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are situated above the ear and are involved in the recognition of spoken words.
The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which functions as a receiver of information before processing, along with associated alterations to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Should You do if You Have Hearing Loss?
The Italians think this type of mild mental impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And it’s staggering the number of Us citizens who are at risk.
Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be considerable hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.
Hearing aids can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing dangers for most 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 specialist to see if you need hearing aids.