If you had the chance to avoid or lessen 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 dollars per week? That’s somewhere around the cost of an expertly-programmed set of hearing aids, which the most recent research demonstrates can lessen 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 observed that the level of cognitive decline was larger in those with hearing loss when compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids exhibited no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise established that hearing loss is linked with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can lead to hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can forestall this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally acknowledged theory is that hearing loss tends to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory portion of the brain, producing 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
Another study out of Johns Hopkins University assessed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given a hearing test. The participants were put into three groups: (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 stated 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 found to bring forth cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This translates to changes to the brain and reduced physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, therefore, is a great deal more than simply inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As additional research is conducted, and as we become more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.