Do you remember getting your first car? The sense of freedom was unparalleled. You could go anywhere, anytime, with whoever you wanted. Many people with loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they invest in their first hearing aids.
Why would getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? It’s not just the well known reasons for having hearing aids, but also the less obvious ones that can restore your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.
Your brain’s ability to react to changes can be illustrated as follows: You’re on the way to your job, following the same route you always do. As you go to make that first left you find that the road is blocked. What would be your reaction to this problem? Is quitting and going back home a good decision? Unless you’re looking for an excuse to not go to work, probably not. More than likely, you’ll use a different route. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would come to be your new everyday routine.
The same process takes place inside your brain when a “normal” function is blocked or otherwise not functioning. The brain sends its processing down new pathways, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.
Perfecting new skills like juggling, or learning a brand new language are carried out by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes in the brain adjust to match the new pathways and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new skills, it’s also equally as good at making you forget what you already 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, researchers at the University of Colorado found that even in the early phases of hearing loss, when your brain quits working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you might not want it to be working on. This reordering of your brain function explains the link between hearing loss and cognitive decrease.
When you have hearing loss, the areas of your brain responsible for functions, like vision or touch, can take over the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are decreased and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.
So, if you are continuously asking people to speak up, loss of hearing has already begun. What’s more, it could be a more significant problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the neglected loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to change.
Can Hearing Aids Help You
This talent of the brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity improves the performance of your hearing aids even though it might cause your hearing loss to get worse. You can definitely make the most of advanced hearing aid technology because of your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Since the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that regulate loss of hearing, they stimulate mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was decreased 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. 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 as compared to those with normal hearing.
The most useful part of this research 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.”
Maintaining a Young Brain
To put it briefly, the brain is versatile and can adapt itself drastically no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that this decline can be reduced or even prevented by wearing hearing aids.
Hearing aids are state-of-the-art hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function regardless of any health issues by pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.
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. Only by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you stay active and independent. Keep in mind that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.