If you had the potential to prevent or lessen 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 roughly the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the latest research demonstrates can lessen 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 found 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 during a 25 year duration. The study found that the level of cognitive decline was greater in people with hearing loss compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids exhibited no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Multiple studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise established that hearing loss is connected with more rapid cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can lead to accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can prevent this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally accepted theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to limit social interaction and stimulation to the auditory region of the brain, resulting in changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are believed to account for the drop in cognitive function as well as the onset of depressive signs and symptoms.
Hearing Loss and Mortality
Another study out of Johns Hopkins University evaluated 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had received a hearing examination. 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 examined 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 negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been found to result in cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This triggers changes to the brain and reduced physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can impact mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real price of hearing loss, then, is a great deal more than simply inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could sacrifice your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.