Do you remember getting your first car? How amazing was that sense of freedom? You could go where you wanted, when you wanted, with anyone you wanted. Many people who have hearing loss have this same type of experience when they invest in their first hearing aids.
How can getting your first pair of hearing aids compare to getting your first car? Even though there are obvious advantages to being able to hear better, there are some not-so-obvious ones that will help you keep your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly impacted by loss of hearing.
To show how well your brain will respond to change, consider this: You’re on the way to work, following the same way you always take. As you go to make the first left you discover that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Would you just give up and go back home? Unless of course you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, probably not. Finding a different way to go is most likely what you would choose to do. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new routine. If this new route ended up being even more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.
Inside your brain, when normal functions are not working the same thing occurs. The brain reroutes its processing along with alternative pathways, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or in learning new abilities such as martial arts or developing healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adjust to correspond to the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. While neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be equally as good at causing you to you forget what you know.
Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing
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 in your brain will immediately begin to get re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. This is something you might not want it to be working on. The connection between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
The areas of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are diminished and so is your ability to understand speech.
So, if you are repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already started. In addition, it may be a more substantial problem than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This ability of your brain has a positive and a downside. Neuroplasticity may make your loss of hearing worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. Because your brain has the ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can maximize the technology at your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the brain linked with loss of hearing.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was reduced in people with 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. What the scientists discovered was that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, people 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.
The best part of this study is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will manage functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulus it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Retaining a Youthful Brain
The brain is powerful and can adapt itself at any time regardless of your age. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by wearing hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not cheap over-the-counter amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing technology. 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 increase your brain’s performance regardless of your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. 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. Keep in mind that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.