“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently thrown around in context with aging. Most 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 factors such as memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.
Mind-altering illnesses like dementia are usually considered 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 Link?
In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in people who had from hearing loss.
In the study which researchers noticed a decrease in cognitive ability, memory and attention were two of the aspects highlighted. And though loss of hearing is often regarded as a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its relevance.
What Are The Concerns From Impaired Hearing Besides Loss of Memory?
Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing according to another study. 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 suffer from loss of hearing were less likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the probability 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 individuals with more extreme loss of hearing.
But the work undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the link between loss of hearing and a lack of cognitive aptitude.
A Connection 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 individuals 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 not as likely to have mental disability than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Typically, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.
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 researchers were confident in the connection 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 researcher highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are located above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken words.
The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
What to do if You Have Hearing Loss
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be at risk is staggering.
Out of all people, two of three have lost some ability to hear if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering from what is considered to be significant loss of hearing. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.
Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.