Do you recall getting your first car? The sense of freedom was unmatched. At any moment you could call a few friends and drive wherever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids compare to getting your first car? It’s not only the well known reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle ones that can help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly impacted by loss of hearing.
The following example demonstrates how your brain reacts to changes: You’re on your way to your job, following the same route you always take. As you go to make the first left you discover that there is a road-block. What would be your response to this blockage? Would you just give up and go home? Unless of course you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, most likely not. You would probably immediately seek a different way to go. For as long as your regular route was closed this new route would become your new everyday routine. If this new route turned out to be more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.
In your brain, when normal functions are blocked the same thing occurs. Brand new pathways are forged in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or in learning new abilities such as playing an instrument or forming healthy habits. Tasks that were once-challenging become automatic as physical changes to the brain gradually adjust to match the new pathways. Although neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new skills, it’s also just as good at causing you to you forget what you know.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
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 start to get 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 connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline can be explained by this.
The areas of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions like vision and touch. This lessens the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. And even more significant is the reality that your brain may already be beginning to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with anything, there is both a negative and positive side to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity may make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the overall performance of hearing aids. Thanks to your brain’s talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the technology inside your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of your brain linked with loss of hearing.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that having a set of hearing aids decreased 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 scientists discovered was that the speed 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.
We already understood quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this study confirms that knowledge: 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.”
Retaining a Young Brain
It doesn’t make a difference how old you are, the versatility of the brain means it can modify itself at any time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are state-of-the-art hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can improve your brain function regardless of any health conditions by forcing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness amongst other strategies.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. Those who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. Only by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you remain active and independent. After all, you want your brain to continue receiving stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!