If you had the ability 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 dollars per week? That’s about the price of a professionally-programmed pair of hearing aids, which the most recent research shows can lessen 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 followed 3,670 adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. The study observed that the rate of cognitive decline was greater in people with hearing loss when compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids exhibited no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

Several studies out of Johns Hopkins University have likewise confirmed 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 wearing hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?

A generally acknowledged theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory sections 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

An additional study out of Johns Hopkins University examined 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 evaluated for each group, with the following results, as announced 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 effects mortality rates, but instead that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to result in cognitive decline and reduced levels of social interaction and physical activity. This causes changes to the brain and diminished physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can affect mortality rates.

Hearing Aids Can Help

The real price of hearing loss, then, is much more than merely 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 additional 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.