If you had the ability to avoid 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 somewhere around the cost of an expertly-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the latest research demonstrates can minimize 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 observed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was larger in people with hearing loss when compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids exhibited no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Numerous studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise confirmed that hearing loss is connected with more rapid cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can trigger accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally recognized theory is that hearing loss tends to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory region of the brain, leading to 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 symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
Another study out of Johns Hopkins University examined 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received 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 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 effects mortality rates, but instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to generate cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This triggers changes to the brain and reduced physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can influence mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, then, is much more than simply inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could sacrifice your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As additional research is published, and as we become more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.