Remember getting your very first car? The feeling of freedom was unmatched. You could go anywhere, anytime, with whoever you wanted. Many people with loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they invest in their first hearing aids.
How could getting your first set of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? While there are well known benefits to being able to hear better, there are some less obvious benefits that can help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly affected by hearing loss.
The following example demonstrates how your brain responds to changes: Following the identical way as you always have, you leave for work. You soon discover that there is an car accident blocking your way. How would you react? Do you quit and go home? Unless of course you’re searching for a reason to not go to work, probably not. Seeking out another way to go is most likely what you would do. For as long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday routine. If this new route ended up being even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.
When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the exact same thing. New pathways are forged in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or to learn new skills such as playing an instrument or developing healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes in the brain adapt to match the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be just as good at causing you to you forget what you already know.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
Hearing loss is the perfect example of how neuroplasticity has a negative impact on your day-to-day life. As explained in The Hearing Review, researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early stages of loss of hearing, if your brain stops working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. This is something you might not want it to be working on. This reorganization of your brain’s function explains the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decline.
The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions like vision and touch. This diminishes the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capability of understanding speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. What’s more, it could be a more significant issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected loss of hearing has induced your brain structure to alter.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This talent of your brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of the brain associated with loss of hearing.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that having a set of hearing aids reduced cognitive decline in people with hearing loss. The study, titled Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study, followed over three thousand adults over the age of 65. The study showed that people with hearing loss had a higher rate of cognitive decline. However, participants that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.
We already knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: the brain will organize functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulation it receives. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Having a Youthful Brain
The brain is powerful and can change itself at any time regardless of what your age is. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simply using hearing aids prevent or minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are high-tech hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can improve your brain function despite any health issues by forcing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness among other strategies.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for those with hearing loss. Only by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can ensure that you remain active and independent. Don’t forget that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.