Do you recall when you got your first car? How great was that sense of independence? It was your choice when and where you went and with who you hung out with. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
Why would investing in your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? It’s not just the well known reasons for using hearing aids, but also the subtle factors that can help you maintain your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.
Your brain’s ability to react to changes can be explained with the following example: Taking the identical route as you always do, you leave for work. As you go to make the first turn you discover that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Is quitting and going home an option? Probably not unless you’re looking for a reason to avoid going to work. You would most likely quickly seek an alternate route. If that route happened to be even quicker, or if the primary route stayed closed for some time, the new route would become your new everyday routine.
Inside your brain, when normal functions are not working the same thing occurs. New pathways are routed in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or to learn new skills such as juggling or building healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes in the brain adjust to match the new pathways and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at causing you to 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 in your brain will immediately begin to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study conducted by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to change in that way. The association between hearing loss and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.
If you have loss of hearing, the areas of your brain responsible for functions, such as vision or touch, can take over the under-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. This reduces the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” frequently, you already have loss of hearing. And even more important is the reality that your brain may already be starting to restructure.
Can Hearing Aids Help You
This talent of your brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity may make your loss of hearing worse, but it also improves the performance of hearing aids. You can really take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology because of your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. As the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they encourage mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was minimized 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 age 65 and older over a 25 year period. What the researchers found was that the rate 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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.
We already knew quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this research confirms 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 receives and the need at hand.”
Having a Young Brain
To put it briefly, the brain is powerful and can adapt itself drastically regardless of your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are not cheap over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance no matter what your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. People who have hearing loss often become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can ensure that you stay active and independent. After all, you want your brain to keep receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!