“Mental acuity” is a term that gets regularly 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 consideration several aspects. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.
Besides mind altering disorders like dementia, loss of hearing has also been confirmed as a contributing factor for mental decline.
The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that revealed a connection between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers found that participants who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.
Memory and focus were two of the areas highlighted by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive abilities. And although loss of hearing is commonly considered a natural part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.
Loss of Memory is Not The Only Worry With Impaired Hearing
Not only memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, 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 didn’t have hearing loss were less likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have hearing loss. And an even more revealing statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and hearing loss had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in people with more extreme hearing loss.
But the work done by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the connection between hearing loss and a lack of mental aptitude.
International Research Backs up a Correlation Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
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 went even further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that individuals with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
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 exact reason for the link between loss of hearing and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.
The Way Loss of Hearing Can 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 highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and words.
The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we get older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Should You do if You Have Hearing Loss?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is related to a mild form of mental impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And the number of Us citizens who might be at risk is shocking.
Two out of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are over the age of 75, with considerable loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Hearing loss 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 provide a considerable improvement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.