It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. Nothing can compare to that sense of independence. You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with whoever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
Why would investing in your first pair of hearing aids be like getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why wearing hearing aids can help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly impacted by loss of hearing.
The following example illustrates how your brain reacts to changes: Following the same exact way as you always have, you leave for work. Now, suppose you go to take a turn only to discover that the road is closed. What would be your reaction to this blockage? Would you just quit and go back home? Unless you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, probably not. Finding another way to go is most likely what you would do. If that new route happened to be even more efficient, or if your regular route stayed closed for some time, the new route would come to be the new routine.
The exact same process takes place in your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not working. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.
Mastering new abilities such as juggling, or learning a brand new language are carried out by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes inside the brain adapt to match the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget about things you already know as it is at helping you learn new things.
How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to Hearing Loss?
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 development of loss of hearing, when your brain stops working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you might not want it to be doing. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
If you have loss of hearing, the areas of your brain responsible for functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. This decreases the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you are continuously asking people to repeat themselves, hearing loss has already begun. What’s more, it could be a more substantial issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the neglected hearing loss has induced your brain structure to alter.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with anything, there is both a negative and positive angle to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity elevates the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may make your hearing loss worse. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of your brain linked with hearing loss.
In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It found that having 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, observed over three thousand adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. 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 showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.
We already knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Having a Youthful Brain
It doesn’t matter what your age is, the versatility of the brain means it can change itself at any point in time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that simply using hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are state-of-the-art hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function despite any health conditions by pushing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness amongst other strategies.
Hearing aids are an essential part of ensuring your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. If you want to stay active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!