Do you remember getting your first car? Nothing can be compared to that feeling of independence. It was your choice when and where you went and with who you went with. Many people who have hearing loss have this same type of experience when they get their first hearing aids.
Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids compare to getting your first car? While there are obvious advantages to being able to hear better, there are some not-so-obvious ones that can help you keep your independent lifestyle. As it turns out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.
Your brain’s capacity to react to changes can be explained with the following example: Following the exact same way as you always do, you set off for work. You soon find that there is an car accident stopping you from going through. How would you respond? Is quitting and going home an option? Unless of course you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, probably not. You would probably quickly find a different way to go. If that new route was even more efficient, or if the primary route stayed closed for some time, the new route would come to be your 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 skills such as drawing or painting, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adjust to correspond to the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at making you forget what you already know as it can be at assisting you in learning new things.
Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing
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, researchers at the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early phases of hearing loss, if your brain stops working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions like vision and touch. This diminishes the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capability of understanding speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. And even more important is the fact that your brain might already be starting to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This ability of your brain has a positive and a downside. Neuroplasticity enhances the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the technology as part of your ear. As 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 reduced 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, 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 manage functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it receives. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Preserving a Youthful Brain
In short, the brain is powerful and can change itself substantially regardless of your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s functionality regardless of your age is.
Hearing aids are an essential part of ensuring your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for those with hearing loss. You can make sure that you stay active and independent by getting a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!