If you had the ability 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 somewhere around the price of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most recent research demonstrates can lessen 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 through a 25 year time frame. The study observed that the level of cognitive decline was larger in those with hearing loss compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids showed no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Numerous 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 bring about accelerated 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 acceptable theory is that hearing loss tends to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory portion of the brain, producing 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 examined 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had obtained 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 reviewed 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 affects mortality rates, but instead 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 produces changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, then, is much more than just inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As more research is published, and as we become more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of premium hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.