A phrase that gets commonly tossed around in context with aging is “mental acuity”. The majority of health care or psychology specialists call it sharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. One’s mental acuity is influenced by several elements such as memory, focus, and the ability to comprehend and understand.
Mind-altering conditions like dementia are usually regarded as the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently associated as another significant contributor to cognitive decline.
Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Connection?
In fact, Johns Hopkins University carried out one study that discovered a relationship between hearing loss, dementia and a decline in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 men and women function between the ages of 75-84 during a six-year period, researchers found that participants who suffered from hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decrease in cognitive function than those who had normal hearing.
Memory and focus were two of the areas outlined by the study in which researchers noted a reduction in mental abilities. And although hearing loss is commonly considered a typical part of aging, one Johns Hopkins professor advised against downplaying its significance.
Memory Loss is Not The Only Concern With Impaired Hearing
In a different study, those same researchers discovered that a case of impaired hearing could not only speed up the process of cognitive decline, but is more likely to lead to stress, depression or periods of unhappiness. 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 suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than those with healthy hearing. Moreover, the study found a direct correlation between the severity of hearing loss and the probability of developing a mind-weakening affliction. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more likely in individuals with more extreme loss of hearing.
And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of cognitive aptitude 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 frequently and sooner by people who have hearing loss than by people with average hearing.
One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was concluded after scientists studied both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to understand words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.
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.
Even though the cause of the connection between hearing loss and cognitive impairment is still not known, researchers are confident in the connection.
How Can Hearing Loss 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 emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus which are ridges on the cerebral cortex that are positioned above the ear and are involved in the comprehension of spoken words.
The auditory cortex functions as a receiver of information and undergoes changes as we grow older along with the memory parts of the temporal cortex which could be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.
What Should You do if You Have Hearing Loss?
The Italians think this kind of mild cognitive impairment is akin to a pre-clinical stage of dementia. It should certainly be taken seriously despite the pre-clinical diagnosis. And it’s shocking the number of Us citizens who are at risk.
Two of every three people have lost some ability to hear if they are over the age of 75, with a total of 48 million Americans suffering what is considered to be significant hearing loss. Even 14 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64 are affected by loss of hearing.
Hearing aids can provide a significant improvement in hearing function mitigating risks for many people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Make an appointment with a hearing care professional to find out if you need hearing aids.