It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. How great was that sense of independence? You could go anywhere, anytime, with whoever you wanted. Many people who have loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they invest in their first hearing aids.
How could getting your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why having hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly impacted by hearing loss.
To reveal how efficiently your brain can react to change, think about this: Taking the identical route as you always do, you set off for work. As you go to make the first left you discover that the road is blocked. What would be your reaction to this problem? Would you give up and go back home? Unless you’re searching for a reason to not go to work, probably not. More likely, you’ll take a different route. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If the new route turned out to be even more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.
The exact same thing happens in your brain when a “normal” function is blocked or else not working. Alternative pathways are forged in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.
Mastering new skills such as playing an instrument, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes to the brain adapt to match the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. While neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new skills, it’s also equally as good at making you forget what you 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, scientists from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early phases of hearing loss, when your brain stops working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you might not want it to be doing. The link between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.
The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. This diminishes the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. And even more important is the fact that your brain may already be starting to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This ability of your brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it might cause your hearing loss to get worse. You can definitely take advantage of current hearing aid technology because of the brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of your brain linked with hearing loss.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that wearing a set of hearing aids lessened 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, 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 compared to those with normal hearing.
We already understood a lot about neuroplasticity and this research confirms that understanding: the brain will manage 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.”
Having a Young Brain
It doesn’t make a difference what your age is, the versatility of the brain means that it can change itself at any point in time. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental deterioration and that simply using hearing aids prevent or reduce this decline.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself with new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s performance regardless of your age.
Hearing aids are a crucial part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for people with hearing loss. You can be sure to remain active and independent by investing in hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!