A term that gets commonly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology professionals 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 impacted by numerous factors such as memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Mind-altering conditions such as dementia are generally thought of as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another significant factor in mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a decline in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers found that participants who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in mental ability, memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined. And although hearing loss is usually regarded as a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its importance.
Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Beyond Loss of Memory
Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with 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 suffered from hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more inclined to experience dementia than people who have normal hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct relationship. Participants with more extreme hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.
But the work carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the link between hearing loss and a lack of cognitive aptitude.
A Correlation Between Mental Decline And Loss of Hearing is Backed 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 frequently and earlier by people who suffer from hearing loss than by people with average hearing.
One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those who had average hearing or peripheral 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.
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 hearing loss and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.
How Can Hearing Loss 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 author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated 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 functions 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 kind of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are in danger.
Two out of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is regarded as significant loss of hearing. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are affected by loss of hearing.
Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Make an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out if you need hearing aids.