It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. How amazing was that feeling of freedom? You could go where you wanted, anytime, with anyone you wanted. Many people with loss of hearing have this exact same 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? Even though there are well known benefits to hearing better, there are some not-so-obvious ones that can help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by loss of hearing.
Your brain’s ability to react to changes can be illustrated with the following example: Following the same exact route as you always have, you leave for work. Now, what if you go to take a turn and you discover that the road is closed. What is your reaction to this blockage? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Most likely not unless of course you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid the office. You would most likely immediately seek a different way to go. If that new route was even quicker, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would become your new routine.
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 called neuroplasticity.
Learning new abilities such as juggling, or learning a brand new language are carried out by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adjust to match the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at making you forget what you already know as it can be at helping you learn 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, The pathways inside of your brain will immediately begin to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a report done by the University of Colorado. This is something you might not want it to be doing. This reorganization of your brain’s function clarifies the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decay.
The areas of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. This diminishes the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” frequently, you already have hearing loss. In addition, it could be a more substantial problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the untreated loss of hearing has induced your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This ability of the brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity improves the performance of your hearing aids even though it may make your hearing loss worse. Thanks to your brain’s talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can get the most from the advanced technology in your ear. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that regulate loss of hearing, they encourage mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that wearing a set of hearing aids diminished 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 age 65 and older through a 25 year period. What the researchers discovered was that the rate 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 showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.
We already understood a lot about neuroplasticity and this study confirms that knowledge: 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 Youthful Brain
In short, the brain is powerful and can change itself drastically no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function despite any health issues by forcing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness amongst other techniques.
Hearing aids are a vital part of ensuring your quality of life. Those who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you stay active and independent by getting a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!