“Mental acuity” is a term that gets commonly tossed around in context with getting older. It’s called, by most health care professionalssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are several aspects that play into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to understand and comprehend are just some of the areas that can play a role in one’s mental acuity.
Mind-altering conditions like dementia are usually regarded as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but hearing loss has also been consistently associated as another significant contributor to cognitive decline.
The Link Between Your Hearing And Dementia
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that uncovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 people age 75-84 over a six-year span, researchers concluded that individuals who had loss of hearing had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.
In the study which researchers observed a decrease in mental ability, memory and focus were two of the aspects outlined. One Johns Hopkins professor cautioned against downplaying the importance of hearing loss just because it’s considered a typical part of aging.
Loss of Memory is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing
In a different study, the same researchers discovered that a case of hearing impairment could not only speed up the process of mental decline, but is more likely to result in stress, depression or periods of sadness. In addition, 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 hearing loss were less likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. And an even more telling stat from this study was that the probability of someone developing a mind-weakening condition and loss of hearing had a direct correlation. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in patients with more extreme hearing loss.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of mental ability and hearing loss.
International Research Supports a Connection Between Hearing Loss And Mental Decline
Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that people with hearing loss developed dementia more frequently and sooner than those with normal hearing.
One study in Italy took it a step further by studying two separate causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that people with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those who had average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, commonly struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
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 researchers were sure about the relationship between hearing loss and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.
How Can Loss of Hearing Affect Mental Acuity?
However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory about the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead author 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 auditory cortex serves 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.
If You Have Loss of Hearing, What Can You do?
A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. In spite of that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And it’s shocking the amount of Americans who are in danger.
Out of all people, two of three over the age of 75 have lost some ability to hear, with significant hearing loss in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are affected by loss of hearing.
Hearing aids can provide a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for most people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.