You will never forget getting your first car. How awesome was that sense of freedom? You could go where you wanted, when you wanted, with anyone you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
Why would getting your first set of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? While there are well known benefits to being able to hear better, there are some not-so-obvious ones that can help you keep your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly affected by hearing loss.
Your brain’s ability to react to changes can be explained as follows: Following the same exact way as you always have, you set off for work. As you go to make the first right you discover that there is a road-block. How would you react? Do you give up and go home? Most likely not unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to avoid the office. You would probably immediately find an alternate way to go. For as long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday routine. If the new route ended up being even more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.
The exact same thing takes place in your brain when a “normal” function is blocked or otherwise not working. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along different pathways.
Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or to learn new abilities such as martial arts or developing healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes to the brain adjust to match the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at causing you to forget about things you already know as it is at assisting you in learning new things.
Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing
A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways inside your brain will immediately start to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study conducted by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for different functions such as vision and touch. The available resources in 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 repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already started. What’s more, it could be a more substantial problem than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated loss of hearing has induced your brain structure to alter.
Can Hearing Aids Help
This ability of the brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity improves the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can make the most of the technology in your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of your brain linked with loss of hearing.
In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was decreased 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 age 65 and older over a 25 year period. What the scientists found was that the speed of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, participants that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
We already understood a lot about neuroplasticity and this research confirms that knowledge: 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.”
Having a Young Brain
In short, the brain is versatile and can adapt itself substantially no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simple hearing aids prevent or minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are not cheap over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s functionality no matter what your age is.
Hearing aids are an important part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Those who have hearing loss often become withdrawn or isolated. If you would like to remain active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!