A term that gets commonly thrown around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several aspects. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the areas that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.
Along with mind altering illnesses like dementia, hearing loss has also been established as a contributing factor for mental decline.
The Link Between Dementia And Your Hearing
In fact, research conducted by Johns Hopkins University discover a link between dementia, a loss in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers found that individuals who suffered from loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.
Memory and concentration were two of the functions outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in mental capabilities. And though loss of hearing is often regarded as a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying its importance.
Complications Due to Hearing Impairments Besides Loss of Memory
Not just loss of memory but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in those that have loss of hearing according to another study. Additionally, that study’s hearing-impaired individuals 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 have loss of hearing were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have hearing loss. Moreover, the study discovered a direct relationship between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more severe hearing loss.
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 Relationship Between Loss of Hearing 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 often and sooner by people who suffer from loss of hearing than by those with average hearing.
One study in Italy went even further and looked at age related hearing loss by examining two separate 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 researchers studied 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.
In the Italian study, individuals with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Though researchers were sure about the relationship between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause responsible for correlation is still unknown.
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 which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are positioned above the ear and play a role in the recognition of spoken words.
The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
What to do if You Have Hearing Loss
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And it’s staggering the amount of Us citizens who are in danger.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are impacted by hearing loss.
The good news is that there are ways to minimize these dangers with a hearing aid, which can provide a significant improvement in hearing function for most people. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
To see if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care expert.