If you had the ability to avoid 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 newest research demonstrates can limit 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 demonstrates 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 through a 25 year period. The study found 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 to those with normal hearing.
Multiple studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise confirmed that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can trigger hastened rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally established theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory segments of the brain, bringing about changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are believed to account for the decline in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University evaluated 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received a hearing test. The participants were placed into three categories: (1) no hearing loss, (2) mild hearing loss, and (3) moderate to severe hearing loss. Then, mortality was evaluated 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 effects mortality rates, but instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to generate cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This creates changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can influence mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, then, is a whole lot more than just inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could sacrifice your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As more research is published, and as we come to be more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of high quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.