If you had the ability to prevent or decrease the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be willing to pay for it?
What would you say to $15 per week? That’s roughly the price of a professionally-programmed set of hearing aids, which the latest research shows can decrease 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 followed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year duration. The study found that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in individuals with hearing loss compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Multiple studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also established that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can result in accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can prevent this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally acceptable theory is that hearing loss tends to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory components of the brain, bringing about changes in brain chemistry and structure. These changes are thought to account for the decline 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 assessed 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 imply that hearing loss directly impacts mortality rates, but rather that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to bring on cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This triggers changes to the brain and diminished physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can impact mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, then, is significantly more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could compromise your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As more research is performed, and as we come to be more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.