If you had the ability to prevent or decrease 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 per week? That’s somewhere around the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most recent 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 shows 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 time period. The study observed that the rate of cognitive decline was steeper in people with hearing loss compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids demonstrated no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Numerous studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also demonstrated that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can bring on accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but wearing hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?
A generally recognized theory is that hearing loss tends to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory components of the brain, bringing about changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are thought to account for the decline in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive signs and 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 evaluated for each group, with the following results, as reported 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 impacts mortality rates, but rather that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to result in cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This results in changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can affect mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, therefore, is significantly more than simply inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could compromise your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As more research is performed, and as we become more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.