The Real Cost of Hearing Loss
If you had the ability to avoid or decrease the risk of cognitive decline as you grew older, how much would you be willing to pay for it?
What would you say to 15 dollars per week? That’s somewhere around the cost of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most current research shows can decrease 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 observed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year duration. The study found that the level of cognitive decline was higher in individuals with hearing loss when compared to those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who used hearing aids displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
Numerous studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise demonstrated that hearing loss is linked with hastened cognitive decline, depression, and in some cases even dementia.
So, hearing loss can produce hastened rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can deter this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss result in cognitive decline?
A generally supported theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to diminish social interaction and stimulation to the auditory parts of the brain, producing 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 evaluated 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had obtained a hearing test. 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 reviewed 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 imply that hearing loss directly impacts mortality rates, but instead that the negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring about cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This creates 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 simply inconvenience or missing out on a couple of conversations. Hearing loss could compromise your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.
As additional research is published, and as we become more educated on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of top quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.