If you had the chance to prevent or lessen 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 per week? That’s roughly the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most recent research shows can limit 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 demonstrates 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 period. The study observed that the level of cognitive decline was greater in people with hearing loss when compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise established that hearing loss is associated with more rapid cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can lead to hastened rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can prevent 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 portion of the brain, leading to 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 assessed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had obtained 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 investigated 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 rather that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to bring on cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This brings about 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 a whole lot 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 more research is published, and as we become more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.