“Mental acuity” is a term that gets regularly tossed around in context with aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several aspects. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the factors that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.
Along with mind altering illnesses like dementia, loss of hearing has also been confirmed as a contributing factor for mental decline.
The Connection Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, research conducted by Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that individuals who suffered from hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in cognitive function than those who had normal hearing.
Memory and concentration were two of the functions highlighted by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive capabilities. And though loss of hearing is often regarded as a natural part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.
What Are The Concerns From Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss?
In a different study, those same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of mental 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 suffer from loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have loss of 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 suffer symptoms of dementia.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also brought attention to the loss of mental ability and hearing loss.
International Research Supports a Relationship Between Loss of Hearing And Mental Decline
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 suffer from loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.
One study in Italy went even further by examining two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive disability than those with average hearing or peripheral 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 involving memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.
Though researchers were sure about the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.
The Way Hearing Loss Can Affect 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 highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and words.
The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before processing, alongside concurrent modifications to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?
The Italians believe this kind of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And it’s staggering the amount of Americans who are in danger.
Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with significant hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.
Fortunately there are ways to mitigate these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a considerable enhancement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.