A phrase that gets frequently tossed around in context with getting older is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several factors. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the areas that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.
Mind-altering ailments like dementia are generally thought of as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently linked as another significant factor in cognitive decline.
The Link Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University discovered a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers concluded that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.
Memory and concentration were two of the functions outlined by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in mental abilities. One Johns Hopkins professor warned 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 loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing according to another study. Additionally, that study’s hearing-impaired individuals were more likely to become hospitalized or injured in a fall.
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 inclined to experience dementia than those who have healthy hearing. Additionally, the study found a direct relationship between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Participants with more severe hearing loss 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 link between hearing loss and a lack of mental aptitude.
A Connection 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 often and earlier by people who suffer from hearing loss than by those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that people with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.
In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Although the cause of the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.
The Way Loss of Hearing Can Impact 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 emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located 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 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 akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who may be at risk is staggering.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Loss of hearing even impacts 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.
Hearing aids can provide 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 study.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.