If you had the opportunity to prevent or lessen 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 price of an expertly-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the newest research demonstrates can lessen 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 shadowed 3,670 adults age 65 and older during a 25 year duration. The study found that the level of cognitive decline was steeper in those with hearing loss when compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids exhibited no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also demonstrated that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can bring about accelerated 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 acknowledged theory is that hearing loss tends to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory sections 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 signs and symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
Another study out of Johns Hopkins University analyzed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given 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 stated 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 rather that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to result in cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This creates 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, therefore, is significantly more than simply inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As additional research is conducted, and as we come to be more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.