Do you recall getting your first car? How amazing was that feeling of freedom? At any time you could reach out to a few friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people who suffer from loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they get their first pair of hearing aids.
How could getting your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? While there are well known advantages to hearing better, there are some less obvious ones which can help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly affected by hearing loss.
The following example illustrates exactly how your brain responds to changes: Following the exact same way as you always do, you leave for work. As you go to make that first right you discover that there is a road-block. What is your reaction to this problem? Would you just give up and go home? Probably not unless you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid going to work. You would probably quickly find a different way to go. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would come to be your new routine.
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 alternative pathways.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or to learn new skills like drawing or painting or building healthy habits. Activities that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications inside the brain gradually adjust to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget things you already know as it is at helping you learn new skills.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, researchers at the University of Colorado found that even in the early phases of hearing loss, when your brain quits working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you may not want it to be doing. The association between hearing loss and cognitive decline can be explained by this.
The parts of your brain that are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. The available resources in your brain which are used to process sound are decreased and so is your ability to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. What’s more, it could be a more substantial issue than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected hearing loss has induced your brain structure to alter.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This talent of your brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your hearing loss worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. Because your brain has the ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can maximize the advanced technology at your ear. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they stimulate mental growth and development.
In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 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. The study showed that people with hearing loss had a higher rate of cognitive decline. However, people 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 verifies that knowledge: the brain will manage functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulation it receives. To put it another way, 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 how old you are. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that simply using hearing aids prevent or at least minimize this decline.
Don’t discount your hearing aids as cheap over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance regardless of your age is.
Hearing aids are a vital part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Those who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. You can be sure to stay active and independent by investing in a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!