Do you remember getting your first car? The feeling of independence was unmatched. You could go anywhere, anytime, with who you wanted. Many people who suffer from hearing loss have this same type of experience when they invest in their first pair of hearing aids.
How could getting your first pair of hearing aids be like getting your first car? It’s not just the obvious reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle ones that can restore your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a profound effect on your brain’s functionality.
To illustrate how efficiently your brain will respond to change, consider this: Following the exact same way as you always do, you set off for work. Now, what if you go to make a corner and you discover that the road is blocked. What is your response to this problem? Is giving up and going back home an option? Probably not unless you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid going to work. You would most likely quickly seek a different route. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday routine. If this new route ended up being 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 else not functioning. Alternative pathways are forged in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or in learning new skills such as playing an instrument or forming healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes inside the brain adjust to correspond to the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be helpful for learning new skills, it’s also equally as good at causing you to you forget what you 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, The pathways in your brain will quickly begin to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. This is something you may not want it to be doing. This reorganization of your brain’s function clarifies the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decay.
The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for different functions such as vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. And even more significant is the reality that your brain may already be starting to restructure.
Can Hearing Aids Help
This talent of the brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity will probably make your loss of hearing worse, but it also improves the performance of hearing aids. Thanks to your brain’s talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can make the most of the technology inside your ear. As the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they encourage mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. 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, followed over three thousand adults over the age of 65. 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, 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 study is that we can verify what we already understand about neuroplasticity: 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.”
Retaining a Young Brain
It doesn’t make a difference what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means that it can change itself at any time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by wearing hearing aids.
Don’t disregard your hearing aids as cheap over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself with new activities, being socially active, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can enhance your brain’s performance regardless of your age.
Hearing aids are a vital part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Those who have hearing loss 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 experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!