A phrase that gets regularly thrown around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several factors that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to comprehend or understand are just some of the factors that can contribute to one’s mental acuity.
Mind-altering illnesses like dementia are generally considered the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another significant contributor to cognitive decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that uncovered a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a reduction in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people from the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent faster mental decline in individuals who suffer from loss of hearing.
In the study which researchers observed a decrease in mental ability, memory and focus were two of the aspects highlighted. And although loss of hearing is usually considered a natural part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its relevance.
What Are The Problems From Impaired Hearing Besides Loss of Memory?
Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with hearing loss according to another study. In addition, that study’s hearing-impaired participants 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 experience dementia than those with normal hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Participants with more extreme hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to encounter symptoms of dementia.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also brought attention to the loss of cognitive aptitude and hearing loss.
A Correlation 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 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 examining two different causes of age-related hearing loss. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop mental impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, normally struggle to comprehend 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.
Although researchers were sure about the link between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation is still unknown.
The Way Loss of Hearing Can 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 author highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are positioned 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 grow older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?
The Italians believe this kind of mild cognitive impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And the number of Americans who might be in danger is shocking.
Two out of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of people 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 research.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care expert.