Do you recall when you got your first car? The sense of independence was unprecedented. At any time you could call a few friends and drive wherever you wanted. Many people with loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they get their first hearing aids.
Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why wearing hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a powerful effect on your brain’s functionality.
The following example demonstrates exactly how your brain reacts to changes: Taking the same route as you always do, you leave for work. Now, suppose you go to take a turn and you find the road is closed. What is your response to this blockage? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Unless you’re looking for a reason not to go to work, most likely not. More than likely, you’ll take a different route. If that route happened to be even more efficient, or if your regular route stayed closed for some time, the new route would come to be the new routine.
The exact same process happens inside of your brain when a “normal” function is blocked or otherwise not working. New pathways are routed in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.
Perfecting new abilities such as juggling, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes inside the brain adapt to correspond to the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget things you already know as it is at assisting you in learning new skills.
How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to Hearing Loss?
A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, scientists at the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early development of hearing loss, if your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. This is something you might not want it to be doing. This reorganization of your brain function explains the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decrease.
When you have hearing loss, the areas of your brain responsible for functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This reduces the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you are repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already begun. In addition, it may be a more significant problem than damage 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
As with anything, you get both a negative and positive side to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity may make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the overall performance of hearing aids. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can get the most from the advanced technology at your ear. As the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they encourage mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long-term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was decreased in people with hearing aids, according to this study. 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. What the researchers found was that the speed of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, participants that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
We already knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this research verifies that understanding: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain organizes its functions according to the amount of stimulation it receives and the need at hand.”
Having a Young Brain
In short, the brain is versatile and can change itself substantially no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that simple hearing aids prevent or minimize this decline.
Don’t disregard your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can enhance your brain’s functionality no matter what your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. People who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you stay active and independent by investing in a pair of hearing aids. Keep in mind that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.