It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. How awesome was that sense of freedom? You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with anyone you wanted. Many people with hearing loss have this same type of experience when they invest in their first hearing aids.
How could getting your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? It’s not only the well known reasons for using hearing aids, but also the subtle benefits that can restore your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly impacted by hearing loss.
The following example demonstrates how your brain responds to changes: Taking the same exact way as you always do, you set off for work. As you go to make that first left you discover that the road is blocked. What is your response to this blockage? Is quitting and going home an option? Unless of course you’re looking for a reason not to go to work, probably not. You would probably quickly seek 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 come to be the new everyday routine.
Inside your brain, when normal functions are not working the very same thing occurs. The brain sends its processing down new pathways, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.
Learning new abilities like juggling, or learning a brand new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adapt to match the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget about what you already know as it is at assisting you in learning new skills.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, scientists at the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early stages of hearing loss, when your brain stops working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. This is something you might not want it to be doing. This reorganization of your brain’s function clarifies the link between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease.
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 ability to comprehend speech.
So, if you are continuously asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already started. And even more important is the reality that your brain might already be beginning to restructure.
Can Hearing Aids Help You
As with anything, there is both a negative and positive side to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the overall performance of hearing aids. You can really take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating 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 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. 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 showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.
The most useful part of this study is that we can confirm what we already understand about neuroplasticity: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain organizes its functions according to the amount of stimulation it gets and the need at hand.”
Maintaining a Youthful Brain
It doesn’t make a difference how old you are, the adaptability of the brain means that it can change itself at any time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simple hearing aids prevent or at least minimize this decline.
Don’t disregard your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s functionality regardless of your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. People who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. If you would like to stay active and independent, get 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.