A phrase that gets regularly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. One’s mental acuity is affected by numerous elements such as memory, concentration, and the ability to understand and comprehend.
Besides mind altering illnesses like dementia, loss of hearing has also been established as a contributing factor for mental decline.
The Connection Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that discovered a connection between hearing loss, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 people function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers concluded that participants who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decrease in mental function than those who had normal hearing.
In the study which researchers noticed a reduction in mental ability, memory and concentration were two of the aspects highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of loss of hearing just because it’s regarded as a normal aspect of aging.
Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing
In another study, those same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing could not only accelerate the process of mental decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. Additionally, 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 didn’t suffer from loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. And an even more telling statistic from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in individuals with more extreme loss of hearing.
But the work undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the relationship between loss of hearing and a lack of cognitive abilities.
International Research Backs up a Connection Between Hearing Loss And Cognitive Decline
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that dementia will be developed more frequently and sooner by people who have loss of hearing than by those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. People with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop cognitive impairment than people with central hearing loss. This was determined after scientists examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.
Scores on cognitive tests pertaining to memory and thought were lower in participants who also had low scores in speech and comprehension, according to the Italian study.
Though the cause of the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.
The Way Hearing Loss Can 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 researcher emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus located above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in comprehension 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 concurrent modifications to the memory parts of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Loss of Hearing, What Should You do?
The Italians think this form of mild mental impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to take seriously. And it’s staggering the amount of Americans who are at risk.
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 from what is regarded as considerable hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by loss of hearing.
Hearing aids can offer a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for most 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 specialist.