You will never forget getting your first car. How amazing was that sense of independence? At any time you could reach out to a few friends and drive wherever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
How can getting your first pair of hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? It’s not just the obvious reasons for using hearing aids, but also the subtle ones that can restore your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly affected by loss of hearing.
Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be illustrated as follows: Following the same way as you always do, you set off for work. You soon discover that there is an accident stopping you from going through. How would you react? Is quitting and going home an option? Unless of course you’re searching for an excuse not to go to work, most likely not. You would most likely quickly find an alternate route. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new routine. If the new route turned out to be more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.
When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the exact same thing. The term neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.
Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning new languages, or to learn new abilities like playing an instrument or forming healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes to the brain adapt to correspond to the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new skills, it’s also just as good at causing you to you forget what you already know.
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 loss of hearing, when your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you may not want it to be working on. The association between hearing loss and cognitive decline can be explained by this.
When you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain responsible for functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources in your brain which are used to process sound are lessened and so is your ability to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” frequently, you already have hearing loss. And even more significant is the reality that your brain might already be beginning to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with most things, you get both a negative and positive angle to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity improves 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 pathways, you can make the most of the advanced technology at your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the 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 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, observed over three thousand adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. 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 showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline 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 coordinate functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Having 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 speed up mental decline and that simple hearing aids prevent or at least reduce this decline.
Don’t discount your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function despite any health issues by pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new tasks, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.
Hearing aids are an essential part of guaranteeing your quality of life. People who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. If you would like to stay active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. 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.