If you had the chance to avoid 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 roughly the price of an expertly-programmed set of hearing aids, which the newest 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 through a 25 year duration. The study found that the level of cognitive decline was greater in individuals with hearing loss in comparison to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids exhibited no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is connected with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can bring on hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can forestall this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?
A generally accepted theory is that hearing loss tends to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory segments of the brain, leading to 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
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University analyzed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received a hearing examination. 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 examined for each group, with the following results, as announced 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 produce 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 cost of hearing loss, therefore, is a whole lot 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 additional research is carried out, and as we become more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.