A term that gets regularly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. Most health care or psychology experts call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. One’s mental acuity is influenced by several factors like memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Along with mind altering illnesses like dementia, loss of hearing has also been verified as a contributing component in mental decline.
The Relationship Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study which revealed a relationship between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 found that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker cognitive decline in individuals who had from loss of hearing.
In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in cognitive ability, memory and attention were two of the areas outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of loss of hearing just because it’s regarded as a normal aspect of aging.
Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Hearing Impairment
Not just 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 suffer from hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have loss of hearing. And an even more revealing 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 patients with more extreme loss of hearing.
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 Loss of Hearing is Backed 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 sooner by people who have loss of hearing than by those with average hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by analyzing two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers concluded that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive disability than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, usually struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
Scores on cognitive tests involving memory and thought were lower in participants who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.
Though 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 Loss of Hearing 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 researcher highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex play a role in the recognition of speech and 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 associated modifications to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?
The Italians believe this kind of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Us citizens who may be at risk is shocking.
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. Hearing loss even impacts 14 percent of people from 45 to 65.
The good news is that there are methods to minimize these risks with a hearing aid, which can offer a significant enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To see if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.