“Mental acuity” is a term that gets frequently thrown around in regards to aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. One’s mental acuity is influenced by numerous factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, loss of hearing has also been confirmed as a contributing component in mental decline.
The Link Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study which discovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a reduction in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that participants who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in mental ability, memory and attention were two of the aspects outlined. And although hearing loss is commonly considered a natural part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.
Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss
In another study, the same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. 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 loss of hearing were less likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Participants with more severe hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to suffer symptoms of dementia.
But the work undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the relationship between hearing loss and a lack of cognitive abilities.
International Research Backs up 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 people with hearing impairments developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two separate causes. 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 with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to understand the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Though researchers were confident in the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.
How Can Loss of Hearing 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 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 are involved in the recognition 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 concurrent alterations to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Loss of Hearing, What Should You do?
The Italians believe this form of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are at risk.
Two out of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are over the age of 75, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Loss of hearing even affects 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.
The good news is that there are methods to decrease these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant improvement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.