A phrase that gets regularly tossed 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 there are several factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. A person’s mental acuity is impacted by numerous factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.
Mind-altering ailments such as dementia are usually thought of as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another significant factor in cognitive decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which uncovered a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent faster mental decline in individuals who suffer from hearing loss.
In the study which researchers noted a decrease in cognitive capability, memory and attention were two of the areas highlighted. And although loss of hearing is usually considered a normal part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.
Problems From Hearing Impairments Beyond Loss of Memory
Not only memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have 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 with normal hearing. And an even more revealing statistic from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more extreme hearing loss.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also brought attention to the loss of cognitive ability and hearing loss.
A Connection Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Backed by International Research
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that those 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 looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to have cognitive impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Typically, people struggle to understand words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.
In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Although the exact reason for the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.
How Can Hearing Loss 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 are involved in the comprehension of spoken words.
The theory suggests that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which functions as a receiver of information prior to processing, along with concurrent alterations 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
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, according to the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the number of Us citizens who are in danger.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be considerable hearing loss. Loss of hearing even impacts 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.
Hearing aids can offer a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care expert.