A phrase that gets regularly thrown around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several aspects. A person’s mental acuity is affected by several factors such as memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.
Besides mind altering conditions like dementia, loss of hearing has also been verified as a contributing component in mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University discovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a reduction in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in individuals 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 mental abilities. One Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying the significance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a normal aspect of aging.
Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss
In another study, those same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of mental decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of sadness. 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 less likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the likelihood 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 people with more severe hearing loss.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also brought attention to the loss of mental ability and hearing loss.
A Correlation 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 people with hearing loss developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have cognitive disability than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists examined both peripheral and central 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, people with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments 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.
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. When talking about that potential cause, the study’s lead author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are positioned above the ear and are involved in the comprehension of spoken words.
The theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before processing, along with concurrent alterations to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Should You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Americans who are in danger.
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. Loss of hearing even affects 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.
Hearing aids can offer a significant 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.
Make an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out if you need hearing aids.