If you had the potential to prevent or lessen the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be willing to pay for it?
What would you say to 15 dollars per week? That’s about the cost of a professionally-programmed set of hearing aids, which the most current research shows can diminish 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 over a 25 year period. The study observed that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared 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.
Numerous studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is linked with more rapid cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can result in accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally acceptable theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory portion of the brain, resulting in changes in brain chemistry and structure. These changes are thought to account for the drop in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive signs and symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
Another study out of Johns Hopkins University examined 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given a hearing examination. The participants were put into three groups: (1) no hearing loss, (2) mild hearing loss, and (3) moderate to severe hearing loss. Then, mortality was examined 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 imply that hearing loss directly impacts mortality rates, but instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring on cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This creates changes to the brain and reduced 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 couple of conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As additional research is performed, and as we come to be more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.