Do you remember getting your first car? Nothing can compare to that feeling of independence. At any moment you could get in touch with some friends and drive wherever you wanted. Many people with hearing loss have this same type of experience when they get their first hearing aids.
Why would getting your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why using hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.
To show how efficiently your brain will respond to change, think about this: You’re on the way to work, following the same way you always take. You soon find that there is an car accident blocking your way. What would be your reaction to this problem? Is quitting and going back home an option? Unless of course you’re looking for a reason to not go to work, most likely not. Finding a different way to go is more than likely what you would choose to do. If that new route happened to be even more efficient, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would become your new routine.
When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the exact same thing. Alternative pathways are routed in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or in learning new abilities like drawing or painting or building 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. While neuroplasticity can be helpful for learning new skills, it can also be equally as good at making you forget what you know.
How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to Hearing Loss?
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, The pathways in your brain will immediately start to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a report conducted by the University of Colorado. This is something you might not want it to be working on. The connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
When you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain responsible for functions, including vision or touch, can take over the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This lessens the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already begun. And even more significant is the reality that your brain may already be starting to restructure.
Can Hearing Aids Help You
This talent of the brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can make the most of the technology inside your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of your brain associated with hearing loss.
In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was reduced 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 age 65 and older through a 25 year period. 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 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.”
Retaining a Young Brain
The bottom line is, the brain is powerful and can change itself significantly regardless of your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that this decline can be decreased or even averted by using hearing aids.
Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can enhance your brain function despite any health issues by pushing yourself to complete challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness among other strategies.
To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. People who have hearing loss often become withdrawn or isolated. If you want to remain active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!