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 somewhere around the cost of a professionally-programmed set of hearing aids, which the latest research shows can minimize the risk of 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 level of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids demonstrated no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise confirmed that hearing loss is linked with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can result in accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?
A generally supported theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory segments of the brain, bringing about changes in brain chemistry and structure. These changes are thought to account for the decline 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 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 assessed 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 imply that hearing loss directly impacts mortality rates, but instead that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to generate cognitive decline and decreased 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 influence mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, therefore, is much more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could sacrifice your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As more 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 premium hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.