“Mental acuity” is a term that gets commonly tossed around in regards to getting older. Most health care or psychology experts call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several aspects. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the areas that can contribute to a person’s mental acuity.
Along with mind altering conditions like dementia, hearing loss has also been verified as a contributing factor for mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that found a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that individuals who suffered from hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decrease in mental function than those with normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noted a decrease in cognitive ability, memory and concentration were two of the aspects highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the significance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a normal part of getting older.
Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing
Not only memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, 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 didn’t have hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have hearing loss. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Participants with more extreme hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to experience symptoms of dementia.
But the work carried out by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the link between hearing loss and a lack of mental abilities.
A Correlation 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 dementia will be developed more frequently and sooner by people who have loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.
One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by studying two different causes. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. Generally, 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, people with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Even though the cause of the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.
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 situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in the recognition of speech and words.
The theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which serves as a receiver of information prior to processing, along with concurrent modifications to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Hearing Loss, What Should You do?
The Italians think this form of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be at risk is shocking.
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 considered to be significant loss of hearing. Loss of hearing even affects 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64.
The good news is that there are ways to decrease these dangers with a hearing aid, which can offer a considerable enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out if you need hearing aids.