You will never forget getting your first car. The feeling of independence was unmatched. At any time you could get in touch with a few friends and drive wherever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
How could investing in your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? It’s not only the well known reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle benefits that can help you maintain your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly impacted by hearing loss.
Your brain’s ability to react to changes can be explained as follows: Taking the same exact way as you always have, you leave for work. Now, what if you go to take a corner and you find that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Would you quit and go home? Unless of course you’re searching for an excuse to not go to work, probably not. Finding another way to go is more than likely what you would do. For as long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If the new route turned out to be more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.
When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the same thing. The name neuroplasticity defines when the brain reroutes it’s processing along different pathways.
Mastering new abilities like playing an instrument, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes to the brain adjust to match the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be just as good at causing you to you forget what you know.
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, The pathways inside of your brain will immediately begin to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study done by the University of Colorado. This is something you may not want it to be doing. This reorganization of your brain’s function clarifies the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decrease.
The areas of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.
So, if you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already started. And even more significant is the reality that your brain might already be beginning to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with anything, there is both a negative and positive angle to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity may make your loss of hearing worse, but it also elevates the performance of hearing aids. Because your brain has the ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can get the most from the advanced technology in your ear. As the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they stimulate mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that wearing 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. What the researchers found was that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, people 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 understood a lot about neuroplasticity and this study confirms that understanding: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain arranges its functions according to the amount of stimulation it receives and the need at hand.”
Preserving a Youthful Brain
To put it briefly, the brain is versatile and can adapt itself substantially no matter what your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Don’t disregard your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. 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 increase your brain’s performance no matter what your age.
Hearing aids are a crucial part of ensuring your quality of life. People who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you stay active and independent by investing in a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!