If you had the chance to avoid or lessen 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 cost of an expertly-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the newest research demonstrates can minimize 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 observed 3,670 adults age 65 and older through a 25 year duration. The study observed that the level of cognitive decline was steeper in people with hearing loss in comparison to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is linked with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can trigger accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can forestall this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally favored theory is that hearing loss tends to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory sections of the brain, leading to changes in brain chemistry and structure. These changes 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 analyzed 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 analyzed 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 effects mortality rates, but instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring about cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This leads to changes to the brain and diminished physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can impact mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, then, is far more than just inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could sacrifice 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 quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.