If you had the chance to avoid or reduce the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be prepared to pay for it?
What would you say to 15 dollars per week? That’s somewhere around the price of an expertly-programmed set of hearing aids, which the newest research demonstrates can diminish 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 shadowed 3,670 adults age 65 and older during a 25 year period. The study observed that the level of cognitive decline was larger in individuals with hearing loss in comparison to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids demonstrated no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Numerous studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also established that hearing loss is associated with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can trigger hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss lead to cognitive decline?
A generally favored theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory areas of the brain, resulting in changes in brain chemistry and structure. These changes are thought to account for the decline in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive signs and symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University analyzed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given 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 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 effects mortality rates, but instead that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to result in cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This triggers changes to the brain and decreased 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 whole lot more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and potentially even your life.
As additional research is published, and as we become more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.