If you had the ability to avoid or decrease 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 per week? That’s about the cost 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 demonstrates that “self-reported hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults; hearing aid use attenuates such decline.”
The study shadowed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year time frame. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was steeper in people with hearing loss in comparison to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids displayed no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise established that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can create accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally favored theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory sections of the brain, bringing about 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
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University analyzed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given a hearing test. 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 assessed for each group, with the following results, as reported 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 influences mortality rates, but instead that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring forth cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This translates to changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, therefore, is far more than just inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could compromise your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As more research is conducted, and as we become more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of high quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.