Do you remember getting your first car? Nothing can be compared to that feeling of independence. You could go anywhere, anytime, with whoever you wanted. For many people, 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 obvious reasons for using hearing aids, but also the less obvious benefits that can restore your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly affected by hearing loss.
Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be explained with the following example: You’re on your way to your job, following the same way you always take. As you go to make that first turn you discover that there is a road-block. How would you react? Is quitting and going back home a good decision? Unless of course you’re looking for a reason to not go to work, probably not. Seeking out another way to go is most likely what you would do. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new everyday routine. If this new route ended up being even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.
The exact same thing takes place inside your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not functioning. The brain reroutes its processing along with alternative pathways, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or in learning new abilities such as drawing or painting or developing healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications to the brain gradually adapt to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget about things you already know as it is at assisting you in learning 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, scientists at the University of Colorado found that even in the early development of hearing loss, when your brain quits working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to change in that way. The association between hearing loss and cognitive decline can be explained by this.
The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions like vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are decreased and so is your capacity to understand speech.
So, if you are repeatedly asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already begun. In addition, it may be a more significant issue than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected hearing loss has caused your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This talent of your brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity enhances the performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. Thanks to your brain’s talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can get the most from the technology at your ear. Since the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that regulate hearing loss, 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 having a set of hearing aids reduced 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 over the age of 65. 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 compared to those with normal hearing.
The best part of this study is that we can verify 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
To put it briefly, the brain is versatile and can adapt itself drastically regardless of your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s functionality no matter what your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. People who have hearing loss often become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you stay active and independent. Don’t forget that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to keep processing sound and receiving stimulation.