A phrase that gets regularly tossed around in context with getting older 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 understand and comprehend are just a few 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 component in mental decline.
The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that found a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive function. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent quicker mental decline in individuals who had from loss of hearing.
In the study which researchers noted a reduction in mental capability, memory and attention were two of the aspects highlighted. And although hearing loss is commonly regarded as a normal part of getting older, one Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying its importance.
Loss of Memory is Not The Only Worry With Impaired Hearing
Not only memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in those that have hearing loss according to another study. In addition, 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 hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than individuals who did have loss of hearing. Additionally, the study found a direct link between the severity of loss of hearing and the likelihood to develop a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in patients with more severe hearing loss.
But the work done by researchers at Johns Hopkins is hardly the first to stake a claim for the relationship between loss of hearing and a lack of cognitive abilities.
International Research Backs up a Correlation Between Loss of Hearing 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 frequently and earlier by people who suffer from loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.
One study in Italy went even further by studying two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the assessment of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss had a higher probability of having a mild cognitive impairment than those who had normal hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to understand the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension assessments also had poorer scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Although the cause of the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.
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 researcher highlighted the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in comprehension of speech and words.
The theory indicates that age-related changes in the primary auditory cortex, which functions as a receiver of information before processing, alongside associated modifications to the memory areas of the temporal cortex, could be the beginning of a loss of neurons in the brain.
If You Have Hearing Loss, What Can You do?
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 take seriously. And the number of Us citizens who could be at risk is shocking.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some hearing ability, with considerable hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by hearing loss.
Hearing aids can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function mitigating dangers for many people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian study.
To find out if you need hearing aids schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.