Woman with hearing loss happy to have her freedom and independence while riding in a convertible.

Do you remember getting your first car? Nothing can compare to that feeling of freedom. You could go anywhere, anytime, with whoever you wanted. Many people who have hearing loss have this same type of experience when they get their first hearing aids.

How can getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why using hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a profound effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

The following example illustrates how your brain reacts to changes: You’re on the way to work, following the same route you always take. You soon find that there is an car accident stopping you from going through. How would you respond? Is giving up and going back home an option? Most likely not unless you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid the office. Seeking out a different way to go is most likely what you would choose to do. If that route happened to be even more efficient, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would become the new routine.

When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the same thing. Alternative pathways are routed in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Mastering new abilities like drawing or painting, or learning a new language are carried out by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Tasks that were once-challenging come to be automatic as physical modifications to the brain gradually adapt to match the new pathways. Even though neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new skills, it’s also equally as good at causing you to you forget what you 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, The pathways inside of your brain will quickly begin to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a report done by the University of Colorado. This is something you might not want it to be working on. This reorganization of your brain’s function explains the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decay.

The parts of your brain that are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. This lessens the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capability of understanding speech.

So, if you are repeatedly asking people to speak up, loss of hearing has already started. And even more important is the fact that your brain may already be starting to restructure.

Can Hearing Aids Help

As with most things, you get both a negative and positive side to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity enhances the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may make your hearing loss worse. You can definitely take advantage of current hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Since the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they stimulate mental growth and development.

The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was lessened in people who wear hearing aids, according to this study. 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, 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 knew quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this research verifies that understanding: the brain will organize functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulus it is given. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Preserving a Young Brain

The brain is versatile and can adapt itself at any time regardless of your age. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that simple hearing aids prevent or reduce this decline.

Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance no matter what your age is.

Hearing aids are a vital part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Those who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you stay active and independent by investing in a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue receiving stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!

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