The Real Cost of Hearing Loss
If you had the chance 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 set of hearing aids, which the most recent research shows can limit 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 observed 3,670 adults age 65 and older during a 25 year time frame. The study observed that the level of cognitive decline was higher in individuals with hearing loss compared with those with normal hearing. But the participants with hearing loss who utilized hearing aids showed no difference in the level of cognitive decline compared with those with normal hearing.
Multiple studies out of Johns Hopkins University have also confirmed that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, depression, and in some instances even dementia.
So, hearing loss can produce 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 acceptable theory is that hearing loss has a tendency to decrease social interaction and stimulation to the auditory sections of the brain, leading to 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 analyzed 1,666 adults age 70 or older who had been given a hearing examination. The participants were placed into three groups: (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 influences mortality rates, but rather that the consequences of hearing loss can. Hearing loss has been shown to bring forth cognitive decline and decreased levels of social interaction and physical activity. This causes changes to the brain and reduced physical and social activity levels, which more clearly can impact mortality rates.
Hearing Aids Can Help
The real cost of hearing loss, then, is significantly more than just 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 conducted, and as we become 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.