If you had the potential to avoid 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 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 shows 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 found that the rate of cognitive decline was greater in individuals with hearing loss compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids exhibited no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with 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 cases 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 lead to cognitive decline?
A generally established theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory segments of the brain, leading to changes in brain chemistry and structure. These changes 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 assessed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received 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 examined 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 imply that hearing loss directly affects mortality rates, but instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to bring about cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This leads to 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, therefore, is far more than just 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 more research is carried out, and as we come to be more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a set of premium hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.