A phrase that gets regularly tossed around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several aspects that go into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is influenced by numerous elements like memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.
Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, hearing loss has also been confirmed as a contributing factor for mental decline.
The Link Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University found a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers found that individuals who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decrease in mental function than those with normal hearing.
Memory and focus were two of the functions outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in mental capabilities. And although loss of hearing is usually regarded as a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its significance.
What Are The Concerns From Hearing Impairment Besides Loss of Memory?
Not just memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with hearing loss according to another study. 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 inclined 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 hearing loss had a direct correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more severe hearing loss.
But the work performed by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the connection between loss of hearing and a lack of mental aptitude.
A Connection 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 those with hearing impairments developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy went even further by examining two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Individuals who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop cognitive disability than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.
In the Italian study, people with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Even though the exact reason for the relationship between hearing loss and mental 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 that revolves around 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 functions as a receiver of information before processing, alongside associated modifications to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing
The Italians think this kind of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should definitely be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s staggering the amount of Us citizens who are in danger.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is considered to be considerable loss of hearing. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of those from 45 to 65.
Hearing aids can provide a considerable 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.
Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.