If you had the opportunity to prevent 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 price of a professionally-programmed set of hearing aids, which the most recent research demonstrates 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 indicates 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 through a 25 year time frame. The study observed that the level of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss when compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids demonstrated 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 linked with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can create accelerated rates of cognitive decline, but using hearing aids can protect against this decline. The question is, how does hearing loss trigger cognitive decline?

A generally supported theory is that hearing loss tends to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory portion of the brain, bringing about changes in brain chemistry and structure. These modifications are believed 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 assessed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given 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 investigated 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 negative effects of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to generate cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This causes changes to the brain and decreased physical and social activity levels, which more obviously can impact mortality rates.

Hearing Aids Can Help

The real cost of hearing loss, then, is a great deal more than merely inconvenience or missing out on a few conversations. Hearing loss could mean sacrificing your mental, physical, and social health—and possibly even your life.

As more research is published, and as we come to be more informed on the real costs of hearing loss, $15 per week for a pair of quality hearing aids will seem like nothing at all.