You will never forget getting your first car. The feeling of independence was unparalleled. At any time you could get in touch with a few friends and drive wherever you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
Why would investing in your first pair of hearing aids be like getting your first car? While there are well known advantages to being able to hear better, there are some not-so-obvious ones which help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly affected by hearing loss.
The following example demonstrates exactly how your brain responds to changes: Taking the same route as you always have, you set off for work. You soon discover that there is an accident blocking your way. How would you react? Is giving up and going back home a good decision? Unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to not go to work, most likely not. Finding another way to go is more than likely what you would do. If that route was even quicker, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would come to be the new routine.
The same process takes place in your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or otherwise not working. New pathways are forged in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.
Mastering new skills like juggling, or learning a new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Activities that were once-challenging become automatic as physical changes to the brain gradually adjust to match the new pathways. Even though neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be just as good at making you forget what you know.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
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 inside your brain will immediately start to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to a study done by the University of Colorado. This is something you may 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 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 decreased and so is your ability to comprehend speech.
So, if you are repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves, hearing loss has already started. And even more significant is the fact that your brain might already be beginning to restructure.
Can Hearing Aids Help
As with anything, there is both a negative and positive side to this amazing ability. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it may possibly cause your hearing loss to get worse. You can really take advantage of current hearing aid technology because of the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of the 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 reduced 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. What the researchers found was that the speed of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, people that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss showed 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: the brain will coordinate functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulus it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Preserving a Young Brain
The brain is powerful and can change itself at any time regardless of how old you are. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not cheap over-the-counter amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can enhance your brain function despite any health conditions by forcing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness amongst other techniques.
To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. People who have hearing loss may 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 experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!