If you had the ability to prevent or reduce 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 roughly the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the newest research shows can reduce 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 found that “self-reported hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults; hearing aid use attenuates such decline.”
The study followed 3,670 adults age 65 and older through a 25 year time frame. The study found that the level of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss in comparison to 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 also demonstrated that hearing loss is connected with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can create hastened rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally favored theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory areas of the brain, resulting in changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are believed 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 evaluated 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had obtained a hearing examination. The participants were placed into three categories: (1) no hearing loss, (2) mild hearing loss, and (3) moderate to severe hearing loss. Then, mortality was evaluated 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 suggest that hearing loss directly impacts mortality rates, but rather that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to result in cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This results in changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can influence mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, therefore, is a great deal more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As more research is performed, 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.