Remember getting your first car? The sense of freedom was unprecedented. At any moment you could call a few friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people who suffer from hearing loss 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? There are some less obvious reasons why wearing hearing aids can help you keep your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly impacted by hearing loss.
Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be explained with the following example: Taking the same way as you always do, you set off for work. Now, what if you go to take a corner and you find that the road is closed. How would you react? Do you give up and go home? Probably not unless of course you’re looking for a reason to avoid going to work. More likely, you’ll use a different route. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if your regular route stayed closed for some time, the new route would become your new routine.
The same thing takes place inside of your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not functioning. The brain sends its processing down new paths, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.
Learning new skills like juggling, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Tasks that were once-challenging become automatic as physical modifications inside the brain gradually adapt to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at making you forget things you already know as it can be at helping you learn new skills.
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 inside of your brain will quickly begin to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study conducted by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to change in that way. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.
If you have hearing loss, the areas of your brain in charge of functions, such as vision or touch, can take over the under-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are decreased and so is your ability to comprehend speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” frequently, you already have loss of hearing. In addition, it could be a more significant issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected loss of hearing has induced your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This talent of your brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also enhances the overall performance of hearing aids. You can definitely make the most of advanced hearing aid technology because of the brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Because the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they stimulate 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 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, observed 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, participants that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.
We already knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this research 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 gets and the need at hand.”
Maintaining a Young Brain
It doesn’t make a difference what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means it can change itself at any time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that simply using hearing aids prevent or minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are high-tech hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter 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 help improve your brain’s performance regardless of your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Those who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you stay active and independent by investing in a pair of hearing aids. Keep in mind that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to keep processing sound and receiving stimulation.