It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. The feeling of independence was unparalleled. You could go where you wanted, anytime, with who you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? Even though there are well known advantages to hearing better, there are some less obvious ones 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 demonstrates how your brain responds to changes: You’re on your way to your job, following the same route you always take. You soon discover that there is an accident blocking your way. How would you react? Would you give up and go home? Probably not unless you’re looking for an excuse to avoid going to work. Finding a different route is more than likely what you would do. If that route happened to be even quicker, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would come to be the new everyday routine.
The exact same process occurs inside your brain when a “normal” function is blocked or otherwise not working. The brain sends its processing along with new paths, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or to learn new skills like drawing or painting or building healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications to the brain slowly adjust to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at making you forget about things you already know as it is at assisting you in learning new things.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, researchers at the University of Colorado found that even in the early stages of loss of hearing, if your brain stops working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you might not want it to be working on. The connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
The areas of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions like vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.
So, if you are repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already begun. Additionally, it may be a more significant issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the neglected hearing loss has induced your brain structure to alter.
Can Hearing Aids Help
As with anything, you get both a negative and positive angle to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity elevates 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 paths, you can make the most of the advanced technology inside your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the brain associated with hearing loss.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that wearing a set of hearing aids diminished 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 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, people that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
We already knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain organizes its functions according to the amount of stimulation it gets and the need at hand.”
Retaining a Young Brain
The brain is versatile and can change itself at any time regardless of what your age is. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that simply using hearing aids can stop or at least reduce this decline.
Hearing aids are not cheap over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can enhance your brain’s functionality no matter what your age.
Hearing aids are an essential part of ensuring your quality of life. People who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you remain active and independent by getting hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep receiving stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!