“Mental acuity” is a term that gets regularly thrown around in regards to getting older. Most health care or psychology professionals call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, but there are a few factors that go into the measurement of mental acuity. Memory, focus and the ability to comprehend or understand are just some of the areas that can play a role in a person’s mental acuity.
Mind-altering conditions like dementia are commonly considered the cause of a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another significant contributor to mental decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, one study conducted by Johns Hopkins University discover a relationship between dementia, a decline in cognitive ability, and hearing loss. A six year study of 2000 people between the ages of 75-85 concluded that there was a 30 to 40 percent faster mental decline in individuals who had from loss of hearing.
Memory and focus were two of the functions highlighted by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in mental capabilities. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the significance of hearing loss just because it’s regarded as a typical part of getting older.
What Are The Problems From Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss?
Not just memory loss but stress, periods of unhappiness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing according to another study. 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 have hearing loss were not as likely to develop dementia than those who did have hearing loss. 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 hearing loss.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also brought attention to the loss of mental ability and hearing loss.
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 often and sooner by people who suffer from hearing loss than by people with average hearing.
One study in Italy went even further by analyzing two different causes of age-related hearing loss. Through the examination of peripheral and central hearing loss, researchers determined that participants with central hearing loss were more likely to have a mild cognitive impairment than those with average hearing or peripheral hearing loss. People with central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound, generally struggle to comprehend the words they can hear.
In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.
Though researchers were confident in the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation is still unknown.
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. When talking about 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 play a role in the recognition of speech and words.
The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we get older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could 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 parallel to a mild form of mental impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s most definitely something to be serious about And the number of Americans who might be at risk is shocking.
Two out of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are over the age of 75, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Loss of hearing even impacts 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64.
Hearing aids can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function mitigating 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.