“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in regards to getting older. It’s called, by most health care specialistssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into account several factors. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just a few of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.
Mind-altering conditions such as dementia are commonly considered the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently linked as another major cause of mental decline.
The Link Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, one study out of Johns Hopkins University found a connection between loss of hearing, dementia and a reduction in cognitive function. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 during a six-year span, researchers found that participants who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent quicker decline in cognitive function than those who had normal hearing.
In the study which researchers observed a reduction in cognitive capability, memory and attention were two of the areas highlighted. And although loss of hearing is commonly regarded as a natural part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its significance.
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. 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 have loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have loss of hearing. And an even more telling statistic from this study was that the likelihood of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct relationship. People with more extreme hearing loss were as much as five times more likely to suffer symptoms of dementia.
But the work undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins is scarcely the first to stake a claim for the link between loss of hearing and a lack of cognitive abilities.
International Research Backs up a Correlation Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
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 hearing loss than by people with average hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by studying two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. People with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were not as likely to develop mental disability than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after researchers studied both peripheral and central 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.
In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Although the cause of the link between hearing loss and mental impairment is still unknown, researchers are confident in the connection.
The Way Hearing Loss Can 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 highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved 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 before processing, along with concurrent modifications to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Should You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian study, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. It should certainly be taken seriously in spite of the pre-clinical diagnosis. And the number of Us citizens who may be in danger is staggering.
Two out of every three people have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.
The good news is that there are methods to minimize these dangers with a hearing aid, which can offer a considerable enhancement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To see if you need hearing aids make an appointment with a hearing care expert.