It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. How awesome was that sense of independence? You could go anywhere, anytime, with who you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
How can getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? It’s not only the well known reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle benefits that can restore your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.
To demonstrate how efficiently your brain can react to change, consider this: You’re on the way to work, taking the same route you always do. Now, suppose you go to take a corner only to discover the road is blocked. How would you react? Is giving up and going home a good decision? Unless of course you’re searching for an excuse not to go to work, probably not. Seeking out a different route is more than likely what you would choose to do. As long as your primary route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday 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 blocked, your brain does the same thing. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along different pathways.
Learning new abilities such as playing an instrument, or learning a new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Activities 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 what you already know as it is at helping you learn new skills.
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, The pathways inside of your brain will immediately begin to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study conducted by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to change in that way. This reorganization of your brain function explains the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decrease.
The areas of your brain that are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. 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 are constantly asking people to speak up, loss of hearing has already started. What’s more, it could be a more substantial problem than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected hearing loss has caused your brain structure to change.
Can Hearing Aids Help You
As with most things, there is both a negative and positive side to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it may possibly cause your hearing loss to get worse. Because your brain has the ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the technology as part of your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of the brain associated with hearing loss.
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 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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.
The best 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 stimulation it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Preserving a Youthful Brain
The brain is powerful and can adapt itself at any time regardless of what your age is. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as cheap over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself with new activities, being socially active, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance regardless of your age.
To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. If you want to remain 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 continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.