A term that gets regularly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. Most health care or psychology experts 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 several elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.
Besides mind altering disorders like dementia, hearing loss has also been verified as a contributing component in mental decline.
The Link Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University found a link between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 over a six-year span, researchers found that participants who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decrease in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noted a reduction in mental capability, memory and attention were two of the aspects outlined. And though loss of hearing is often considered a natural part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its relevance.
Problems Due to Hearing Impairments Besides Memory Loss
In another study, the same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing could not only quicken the process of mental decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of sadness. Additionally, that study’s hearing-impaired individuals 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 likely to develop dementia than people who have normal hearing. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more extreme hearing loss.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of cognitive aptitude and hearing loss.
International Research Backs up a Connection Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that dementia will be developed more frequently and sooner by people who have loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.
One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive impairment than those who had average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Though researchers were confident in the link between loss of hearing 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 highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and words.
The theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information prior to processing, along with concurrent alterations to the memory parts 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?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be in danger is staggering.
Two out of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be considerable loss of hearing. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are impacted by hearing loss.
Hearing aids can provide 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 research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out if you need hearing aids.