If you had the opportunity to prevent or decrease 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 dollars per week? That’s about the cost of a professionally-programmed set of hearing aids, which the newest research shows 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 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 during a 25 year time period. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was steeper in those with hearing loss when compared with 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 established that hearing loss is connected with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can lead to accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can forestall this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?
A generally accepted theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory regions of the brain, producing 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 symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University examined 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received a hearing test. 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 instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to generate cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This translates to changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can impact mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, then, is significantly more than just 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 additional 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 top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.