If you had the opportunity to prevent or decrease 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 cost of an expertly-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the newest research shows can reduce the risk of3 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 period. The study observed that the rate of cognitive decline was greater in individuals with hearing loss in comparison to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids exhibited no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is linked with more rapid cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can bring about hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can forestall this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?
A generally acceptable theory is that hearing loss tends 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 drop 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 obtained a hearing test. The participants were placed into three groups: (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 described 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 has an effect on mortality rates, but rather that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to generate cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This produces changes to the brain and diminished physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, then, is significantly more than simply inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As additional 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.