A term that gets regularly 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 aspects. A person’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Mind-altering conditions like dementia are usually 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.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study which discover a link between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent faster cognitive decline in people who suffer from loss of hearing.
Memory and focus were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in mental abilities. And although loss of hearing is usually considered a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its significance.
Complications Due to Hearing Impairments Beyond Memory Loss
In another study, the same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to result in 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 not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have hearing loss. Moreover, the study discovered a direct link between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Individuals with more extreme 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 aptitude 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 dementia will be developed more often and earlier by people who suffer from hearing loss than by those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to understand 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.
Even though the cause of the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.
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 author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are located 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 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 Hearing Loss
The Italians think this kind of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Americans who might be at risk is staggering.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with considerable loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of those from 45 to 65.
The good news is that there are ways to decrease 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.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to see if you need hearing aids.