If you had the potential to avoid or reduce the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be inclined to pay for it?
What would you say to $15 per week? That’s about the cost of an expertly-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most recent research shows can diminish 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 during a 25 year duration. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was larger in those with hearing loss compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids demonstrated no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is associated with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can lead to hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally supported theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory components of the brain, leading to 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 signs and 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 evaluated 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 imply that hearing loss directly affects mortality rates, but rather that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to bring about cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This triggers 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, then, is much more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could compromise your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As more research is carried out, 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.