You will never forget getting your first car. Nothing can compare to that feeling of freedom. At any time you could call a few friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people who have loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they invest in their first pair of hearing aids.
Why would getting your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? It’s not just the well known reasons for using hearing aids, but also the subtle benefits that can help you maintain your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a powerful impact on your brain’s functionality.
The following example illustrates exactly how your brain reacts 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 reaction to this problem? Is giving up and going back home an option? Most likely not unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to avoid the office. You would most likely immediately find a different way to go. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If the new route ended up being more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.
The same thing occurs inside of your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or otherwise not functioning. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along different pathways.
Mastering new skills such as playing an instrument, or learning a brand new language are carried out by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes in the brain adapt to correspond to the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new things, it can also be equally as good at making you forget what you already know.
How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to Hearing Loss?
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 from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early development of hearing loss, if your brain quits working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you may not want it to be working on. The association between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.
If you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, including vision or touch, can take over the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This reduces the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. And even more important is the reality that your brain might already be starting to restructure.
Can Hearing Aids Help
As with most things, there is both a negative and positive angle to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the performance of hearing aids. You can definitely take advantage of current hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. 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. It found that having a set of hearing aids decreased 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, participants 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.
We already understood quite a bit 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.”
Maintaining a Young Brain
It doesn’t matter what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means that it can modify itself at any time. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can enhance your brain function despite any health conditions by pushing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness amongst other strategies.
To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. People who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can ensure that you remain active and independent. After all, you want your brain to continue receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!