It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. The feeling of freedom was unmatched. At any time you could get in touch with a few friends and go wherever you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
Why would investing in your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why having hearing aids can help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly impacted by loss of hearing.
The following example illustrates exactly how your brain reacts to changes: You’re on your way to work, following the same route you always do. As you go to make the first left you find that there is a road-block. How would you respond? Do you quit and go home? Unless of course you’re searching for an excuse not to go to work, most likely not. You would probably quickly seek a different way to go. If that route was even more efficient, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would become the new routine.
In your brain, when normal functions are not working the same thing takes place. The brain sends its processing down alternative pathways, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or in learning new abilities like drawing or painting or forming healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes in the brain adjust to correspond to the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget about what you already know as it can be at helping you learn new things.
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, scientists from the University of Colorado found that even in the early development of loss of hearing, when your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. The association between loss of hearing and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
When you have loss of hearing, the areas of your brain in charge of functions, such as vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This reduces the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capability of understanding speech.
So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. In addition, it could be a more significant problem than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected hearing loss has caused your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This talent of your brain has a positive and a downside. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your hearing loss worse, but it also enhances the performance of hearing aids. You can really make the most of current hearing aid technology because of your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that regulate hearing loss, they encourage mental growth and development.
As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It found that having a set of hearing aids lessened 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, observed over three thousand adults age 65 and older through a 25 year period. What the scientists discovered was that the speed 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 compared to those with normal hearing.
We already understood quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this research verifies that understanding: the brain will organize 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.”
Maintaining a Young Brain
The brain is powerful and can adapt itself at any time regardless of how old you are. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by using hearing aids.
Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s functionality regardless of your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for those with hearing loss. You can be sure to stay active and independent by investing in 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.