A term that gets regularly thrown around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several aspects. A person’s mental acuity is affected by several factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Mind-altering illnesses such as dementia are generally regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another significant factor in mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 over a six-year span, researchers concluded that participants who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in mental function than those with normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in cognitive ability, memory and concentration were two of the aspects outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the importance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a typical part of getting older.
What Are The Concerns From Hearing Impairment Besides Loss of Memory?
Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing according to another study. Additionally, that study’s hearing-impaired individuals 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 loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to experience dementia than people who have healthy hearing. Moreover, the study found a direct link between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. People 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 cognitive aptitude and hearing loss.
A Link Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Supported by International Research
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that people with hearing loss ended up with 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 different causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that people with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those with normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, usually struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
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.
Even though researchers were confident in the connection between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.
The Way Hearing Loss 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 emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in the recognition of speech and words.
The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of cognitive impairment. It should definitely be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Americans who might be in danger is shocking.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.
Fortunately there are methods 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 research.
To see if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.