If you had the ability to prevent or decrease the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be prepared to pay for it?
What would you say to 15 dollars per week? That’s about the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most current research shows can reduce 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 shadowed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. The study found 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 exhibited no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also confirmed that hearing loss is connected with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can produce accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally established theory is that hearing loss tends to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory portion of the brain, producing changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are believed to account for the decline in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive signs and symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
Another 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 groups: (1) no hearing loss, (2) mild hearing loss, and (3) moderate to severe hearing loss. Then, mortality was reviewed 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 affects mortality rates, but instead that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to generate cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This produces changes to the brain and diminished physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can influence mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, then, is much more than just 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 educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of premium hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.