If you had the ability to avoid or reduce 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 per week? That’s somewhere around the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most current research demonstrates can decrease 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 demonstrates 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 time period. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in individuals with hearing loss in comparison to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids showed no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is connected with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can create hastened rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can forestall this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally acceptable theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory regions of the brain, resulting in changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are thought 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 examined 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given 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 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 imply that hearing loss directly influences mortality rates, but rather that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring about cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This causes changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, then, is significantly more than merely 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 more research is conducted, and as we come to be more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of premium hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.