If you had the chance 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 per week? That’s about the price of an expertly-programmed set of hearing aids, which the most recent research shows can minimize 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 shows 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 period. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was larger in individuals with hearing loss compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids displayed no difference in the level 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 more rapid cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can trigger hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally accepted theory is that hearing loss tends to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory sections of the brain, producing changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are thought to account for the drop in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
Another study out of Johns Hopkins University assessed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received a hearing test. 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 examined for each group, with the following results, as described 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 has an effect on mortality rates, but instead that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring forth cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This results in changes to the brain and reduced physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, then, is far more than just inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could sacrifice your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As more research is published, and as we become 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.