If you had the opportunity 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 roughly the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the newest research shows can decrease 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 observed that the level of cognitive decline was greater in individuals with hearing loss when compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Numerous studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also confirmed that hearing loss is associated with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can create hastened 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 has a tendency to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory portion 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 symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University assessed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given a hearing examination. The participants were placed 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 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 affects mortality rates, but instead that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to bring forth cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This translates to changes to the brain and diminished physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, then, is much more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could compromise your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As more research is published, and as we come to be more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of premium hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.