You will never forget getting your first car. The sense of freedom was unmatched. You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with whoever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
Why would getting your first set of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? Even though there are obvious advantages to hearing better, there are some less obvious benefits which can help you maintain your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly affected by hearing loss.
Your brain’s capacity to react to changes can be illustrated as follows: Following the exact same route as you always do, you leave for work. Now, suppose you go to make a turn only to discover that the road is blocked. What is your reaction to this blockage? Do you just give up and go home? Probably not unless you’re looking for an excuse to avoid going to work. Seeking out another route is most likely what you would do. For as long as your regular route was closed this new route would become your new routine. If the new route turned out to be more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.
In your brain, when normal functions are blocked the same thing occurs. The brain sends its processing down alternative pathways, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.
Perfecting new skills like juggling, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes to the brain adapt to correspond to the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new skills, it’s also equally as good at causing you to you forget what you already know.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
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, scientists at the University of Colorado found that even in the early stages of hearing loss, when your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. This reordering of your brain function clarifies the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline.
The areas of your brain that are responsible for hearing will get 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 capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. Additionally, it might be a more substantial problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to change.
Can Hearing Aids Help You
This ability of your brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also improves the performance of hearing aids. You can really take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology because of your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the brain linked with loss of hearing.
As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was minimized in people who wear 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 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 knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Having a Young Brain
The bottom line is, the brain is powerful and can adapt itself drastically no matter what your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that simple hearing aids prevent or reduce this decline.
Hearing aids are high-tech hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself with new activities, being active socially, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s functionality regardless of your age.
To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. If you would like to remain active and independent, invest in a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep receiving stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!