A term that gets regularly thrown around in context with aging 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 go into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is influenced by numerous elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Mind-altering illnesses such as dementia are commonly regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently associated as another significant factor in mental decline.
The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a decline in cognitive ability. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent faster mental decline in individuals who suffer from loss of hearing.
Memory and focus were two of the functions outlined by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive abilities. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of hearing loss just because it’s considered a typical part of aging.
Complications From Hearing Impairments Beyond Memory Loss
In a different 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 result in stress, depression or periods of sadness. In addition, that study’s hearing-impaired participants were more likely to become hospitalized or injured in a fall.
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 develop dementia than those with healthy hearing. And an even more revealing statistic from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in people with more extreme hearing loss.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of cognitive ability and hearing loss.
International Research Backs up a Connection 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 loss ended up with dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have mental disability than people with central hearing loss. This was determined after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, usually struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
Scores on cognitive tests involving memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.
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 Loss of Hearing Affect Mental Acuity?
However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about 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 positioned above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken words.
The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we get older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is related to a mild form of mental impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And it’s staggering the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.
Two out of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.
Fortunately there are ways to mitigate these risks with a hearing aid, which can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To see if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care expert.