It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. Nothing can compare to that feeling of freedom. It was your decision when and where you went and with who you went with. Many people who suffer from hearing loss have this exact same experience when they get their first hearing aids.
Why would getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why using hearing aids will help you keep your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant impact on your brain’s functionality.
To show how efficiently your brain will respond to change, think about this: You’re on your way to your job, taking the same route you always do. Now, what if you go to make a turn and you discover that the road is closed. What would be your response to this problem? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Most likely not unless of course you’re looking for a reason to avoid the office. You would most likely quickly seek an alternate way to go. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would become your new everyday routine. If this new route turned out to be more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.
The same process occurs inside of your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or otherwise not working. The term neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.
Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or to learn new skills like drawing or painting or forming healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes in the brain adapt to correspond to the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at making you forget about what you already know as it is at assisting you in learning new things.
Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing
A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways in your brain will quickly begin to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to a study done by the University of Colorado. This is something you might not want it to be working on. This reordering of your brain’s function explains the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decay.
The areas of your brain that are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for different functions such as vision and touch. The available resources in your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.
So, if you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, hearing loss has already started. What’s more, it may be a more significant problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the untreated hearing loss has induced your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with most things, you get both a negative and positive side to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity may make your hearing loss worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the advanced technology as part of your ear. Since the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they encourage mental growth and development.
As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 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, observed 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 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 study confirms that understanding: 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.”
Retaining a Youthful Brain
It doesn’t matter what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means that it can modify itself at any point in time. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even prevented by wearing hearing aids.
Don’t disregard your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s functionality no matter what your age is.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. People who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can ensure that you remain active and independent. After all, you want your brain to keep receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!