If you had the ability to prevent or lessen the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be prepared to pay for it?
What would you say to $15 per week? That’s roughly the price of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the newest research demonstrates can lessen the risk of developing cognitive decline in seniors with hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that “self-reported hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults; hearing aid use attenuates such decline.”
The study followed 3,670 adults age 65 and older through a 25 year time frame. The study found that the level of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids exhibited no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Multiple studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also confirmed that hearing loss is connected with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can trigger accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can forestall this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally acknowledged theory is that hearing loss tends to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory segments of the brain, producing changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are thought to account for the drop in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University evaluated 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given a hearing test. The participants were placed into three groups: (1) no hearing loss, (2) mild hearing loss, and (3) moderate to severe hearing loss. Then, mortality was analyzed for each group, with the following results, as announced by Johns Hopkins researchers:
“Interestingly, after adjusting for demographic characteristics and cardiovascular risk factors, their results suggested that moderate or more severe hearing loss was associated with a 39% increased risk of mortality, while a mild hearing loss had a 21% increased risk of mortality, compared to those with normal hearing.”
This is not to suggest that hearing loss directly impacts mortality rates, but rather that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring about cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This results in changes to the brain and diminished physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can impact mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, therefore, is a great deal more than simply inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could sacrifice your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As more research is carried out, and as we become more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of high quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.