A phrase that gets regularly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology experts call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is affected by numerous factors like memory, focus, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Mind-altering conditions such as dementia are usually regarded as the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently linked as another major cause of cognitive decline.
The Relationship Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which found a connection between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in individuals who suffer from loss of hearing.
Memory and focus were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in mental abilities. And although hearing loss is often considered a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its relevance.
What Are The Concerns From Hearing Impairment Besides Memory Loss?
Not only 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to experience dementia than those with healthy hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Participants with more severe loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to experience symptoms of dementia.
But the work done by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the relationship between loss of hearing and a lack of mental aptitude.
International Research Backs up a Correlation Between Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that dementia will be developed more often and sooner by people who suffer from hearing loss than by people with average hearing.
One study in Italy went even further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have mental impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
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.
Although the cause of the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.
How Can Hearing Loss 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 researcher highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated 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 functions as a receiver of information before processing, along with concurrent modifications to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
What to do if You Have Loss of Hearing
The Italians think this form of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And it’s staggering the number of Us citizens who are at risk.
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 what is regarded as significant hearing loss. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.
The good news is that there are methods to mitigate these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant improvement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To see if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care expert.