Do you recall when you got your first car? The feeling of independence was unparalleled. It was your choice when and where you went and with who you hung out with. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids compare to getting your first car? Although there are well known advantages to hearing better, there are some less obvious ones that help you maintain your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly affected by loss of hearing.
Your brain’s ability to react to changes can be explained with the following example: You’re on your way to your job, following the same way you always take. You soon discover that there is an car accident stopping you from going through. What would be your response to this blockage? Is giving up and going home a good decision? Probably not unless of course you’re trying to find a reason to avoid going to work. You would probably immediately find a different way to go. If that route was even more efficient, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would come to be the new everyday routine.
When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the same thing. The term neuroplasticity defines when the brain reroutes it’s processing along different pathways.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or to learn new skills like playing an instrument or building healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes to the brain adjust to correspond to the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. While neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new things, it can also be just 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, researchers at the University of Colorado found that even in the early development of loss of hearing, if your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you might not want it to be working on. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
The areas of your brain that are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. The available resources in your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your ability to understand speech.
So, if you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already started. What’s more, it may be a more substantial issue than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to change.
Can Hearing Aids Help
As with anything, you get both a negative and positive angle to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity will probably make your loss of hearing worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Because the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that regulate hearing loss, they stimulate mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was reduced 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. What the researchers 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 research is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will manage functions according to your need and the amount of stimulation it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Preserving a Young Brain
The brain is powerful and can change itself at any time regardless of your age. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can enhance your brain function despite any health conditions by forcing yourself to complete challenging new tasks, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness amongst other strategies.
Hearing aids are an important part of ensuring your quality of life. People who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you remain active and independent by getting 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.