Do you recall getting your first car? The feeling of freedom was unparalleled. You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with who you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
Why would getting your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why wearing hearing aids can help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly impacted by loss of hearing.
The following example illustrates exactly how your brain responds to changes: Taking the identical way as you always do, you set off for work. As you go to make that first turn you find that the road is blocked. What is your response to this problem? Would you just quit and go home? Probably not unless of course you’re looking for a reason to avoid the office. You would most likely immediately find a different route. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would become the new routine.
In your brain, when normal functions are blocked the very same thing occurs. The term neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.
Learning new abilities such as playing an instrument, or learning a new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adjust to match the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be helpful for learning new things, it can also be equally as good at causing you to you forget what you know.
Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing
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 quickly start to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. This reordering of your brain’s function clarifies the link between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease.
If you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, like vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are decreased and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.
So, if you are constantly asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already begun. Additionally, it might be a more significant issue than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated loss of hearing has induced your brain structure to alter.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with anything, there is both a negative and positive side to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity enhances the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it might make your hearing loss worse. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can get the most from the technology in your ear. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they encourage mental growth and development.
As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It found that having a set of hearing aids lessened 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 over a 25 year period. 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, 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.
The most useful part of this study is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: 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.”
Maintaining a Young Brain
It doesn’t make a difference what your age is, the versatility of the brain means it can change itself at any time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten mental deterioration and that simply using hearing aids prevent or at least reduce 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, you can enhance your brain function despite any health conditions by pushing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.
Hearing aids are a crucial part of ensuring your quality of life. Those who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. If you want to stay active and independent, invest in 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!