“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in regards to aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. One’s mental acuity is affected by several factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Mind-altering illnesses like dementia are generally considered the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another significant cause of cognitive decline.
The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study which discover a connection between dementia, a reduction in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in individuals who had from loss of hearing.
Memory and concentration were two of the functions highlighted by the study in which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive abilities. And though hearing loss is often considered a typical part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its importance.
Memory Loss is Not The Only Worry With Impaired Hearing
In a different study, those same researchers found that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of mental decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of sadness. In addition, 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 hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia than people who have normal hearing. And an even more telling stat 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 likely in people 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.
International Research Supports a Correlation Between Loss of Hearing And Cognitive Decline
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that individuals with hearing loss ended up with 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. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to have cognitive disability than people with central hearing loss. This was determined after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to understand the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Although researchers were sure about the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation remains a mystery.
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 author highlighted 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 auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we get older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?
The Italians think this type of mild cognitive impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be in danger is shocking.
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 regarded as significant hearing loss. Loss of hearing even impacts 14 percent of those from 45 to 65.
Fortunately there are methods to minimize these dangers with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant improvement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To find out if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care specialist.