“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly thrown around in context with getting older. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.
Besides mind altering disorders like dementia, hearing loss has also been confirmed as a contributing component in mental decline.
The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University found a connection between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent faster cognitive decline in individuals who had from loss of hearing.
Memory and concentration were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in cognitive capabilities. One Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying the relevance of hearing loss just because it’s considered a typical part of aging.
Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Hearing Impairment
In another study, the same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only quicken 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 suffered from hearing loss at the onset of the study were more inclined to experience dementia than people who have normal hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct correlation. People with more severe loss of hearing were as much as five times more likely to experience symptoms of dementia.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of cognitive aptitude and hearing loss.
A Link Between Mental Decline And Loss of Hearing is Backed 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 took it a step further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. People with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop mental impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, normally struggle to understand the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Even though researchers were confident in the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.
How Can Loss of Hearing Affect 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 emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in comprehension 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.
What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Americans who may be in danger is shocking.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be significant hearing loss. Hearing loss even affects 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64.
Hearing aids can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing dangers for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Make an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.