A phrase that gets frequently thrown around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology specialists 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 some of the factors that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.
Besides mind altering conditions like dementia, loss of hearing has also been confirmed as a contributing component in mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study which uncovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a reduction in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers concluded that participants who suffered from hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decrease in mental function than those with normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noted a reduction in mental capability, memory and attention were two of the aspects highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the significance of loss of hearing just because it’s regarded as a typical part of getting older.
What Are The Problems From Impaired Hearing Beyond Loss of Memory?
Not only loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with hearing loss 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 hearing loss at the onset of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than those who have healthy hearing. Moreover, the study discovered a direct link between the severity of loss of hearing and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in people with more extreme hearing loss.
But the work carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the relationship between hearing loss and a lack of cognitive abilities.
A Correlation 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 loss 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 studying two separate causes. People with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop cognitive impairment than those 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, usually struggle to understand the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Even though the exact reason for the link between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.
The Way Hearing Loss Can Impact Mental Acuity
However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are found above the ear and play a role in the comprehension of spoken words.
The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information before processing, alongside concurrent alterations to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Hearing Loss, What Should You do?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Americans who could be in danger is staggering.
Two of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are older than 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be significant hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.
Fortunately there are ways to decrease these risks 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.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.