“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in regards to aging. Most health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, concentration and the ability to understand and comprehend are just a few of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.
Along with mind altering disorders like dementia, loss of hearing has also been established as a contributing component in mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University conducted one study that uncovered a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in mental function than those who had normal hearing.
In the study which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive capability, memory and concentration were two of the aspects highlighted. And although loss of hearing is often considered a typical part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its relevance.
Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing
Not only loss of memory but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing 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 suffered from hearing loss at the onset of the study were more likely to experience dementia than those with healthy hearing. And an even more revealing stat from this study was that the likelihood 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 severe loss of hearing.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of cognitive ability and hearing loss.
International Research Supports a Connection Between Loss of Hearing 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 examining two different causes of age-related hearing loss. People who have normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Typically, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.
In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Even though researchers were confident in the link between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation is still unknown.
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. When talking about 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 located above the ear and are involved in the recognition of spoken words.
The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and undergoes 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 most definitely something to take seriously. And it’s shocking the amount of Americans who are at risk.
Two out of every three people over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are impacted by loss of hearing.
Fortunately there are methods to minimize these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant enhancement in hearing function for many people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional to see if you need hearing aids.