If you had the potential 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 dollars per week? That’s roughly the price of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most current research shows 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 period. The study found that the level of cognitive decline was greater in people with hearing loss in comparison to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids displayed no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Multiple studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also established that hearing loss is connected with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can lead to hastened rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?
A generally acceptable theory is that hearing loss tends to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory segments of the brain, leading to changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are thought to account for the decline in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University assessed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had obtained a hearing test. The participants were put into three categories: (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 stated 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 instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to produce cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This results in changes to the brain and reduced physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, therefore, is far more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As additional research is published, and as we come to be more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.