“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets regularly tossed around in regards to getting older. It’s called, by most health care specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. One’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements like memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.
Mind-altering illnesses like dementia are commonly considered the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another major cause of mental decline.
The Connection Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University discovered a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that individuals who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decrease in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.
Memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive abilities. And though loss of hearing is usually regarded as a natural part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its relevance.
Memory Loss is Not The Only Worry With Impaired Hearing
In a different study, the same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. 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 onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia than people who have healthy hearing. And an even more telling statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Individuals with more severe loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to experience 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 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 sooner by people who have hearing loss than by those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by examining two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that individuals with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive disability than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to understand the words they can hear.
Scores on cognitive tests pertaining to memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.
Even though the cause of the link between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still unknown, 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. When talking about 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 positioned 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 areas of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Loss of Hearing, What Can You do?
The Italians think this type of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And it’s staggering the number of Americans who are in danger.
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. Even 14 percent of people ages 45 to 64 are impacted by hearing loss.
The good news is that there are ways to decrease these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function for most 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 specialist.