“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in context with getting older. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the areas that can contribute to one’s mental acuity.
Along with mind altering disorders 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, research conducted by Johns Hopkins University discover a connection between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and loss of hearing. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent faster cognitive decline in people who had from hearing loss.
In the study which researchers observed a reduction in mental capability, memory and attention were two of the aspects highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the significance of loss of hearing just because it’s regarded as a typical part of aging.
Problems From Impaired Hearing Besides Memory Loss
In another study, the same researchers found that a case of hearing impairment could not only speed up the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more likely to experience dementia than people who have normal hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more extreme hearing loss.
But the work performed 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 Supports a Relationship Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that people with hearing loss ended up with dementia more frequently and sooner than 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 determined that individuals with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive disability than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People who have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, normally struggle to understand the words they can hear.
Scores on cognitive tests pertaining to memory and thought were lower in those people who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.
Though the exact reason for the link between hearing loss 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. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead author emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are found above the ear and are involved in the comprehension of spoken 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 could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?
The Italians believe this form of mild mental impairment is related to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the amount of Us citizens who are in danger.
Two of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are affected by hearing loss.
Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for many 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 schedule an appointment with a hearing care expert.