A term that gets frequently tossed around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology specialists call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several factors. A person’s mental acuity is impacted by several elements such as memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Mind-altering conditions like dementia are generally thought of as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another major cause of mental decline.
The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which discovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a reduction 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 quicker cognitive decline in individuals who had from hearing loss.
Memory and focus were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers noticed a reduction in mental abilities. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of loss of hearing just because it’s regarded as a normal aspect of aging.
What Are The Concerns From Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss?
Not only memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing according to another study. Additionally, 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 didn’t suffer from loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Participants with more severe hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of mental ability and hearing loss.
A Link 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 dementia will be developed more often and sooner by people who suffer from loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two separate causes. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop mental impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People who have 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 participants who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.
Although researchers were sure about the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.
The Way Loss of Hearing Can Impact 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 highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are situated above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken words.
The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we get older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could 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 study, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. It should definitely be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Americans who could be at risk is staggering.
Two of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with considerable loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of people ages 45 to 64 are affected by hearing loss.
Fortunately there are methods to decrease these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a considerable enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to see if you need hearing aids.