Woman with hearing loss happy to have her freedom and independence while riding in a convertible.

Do you recall getting your first car? How amazing was that sense of independence? It was your choice when and where you went and with who you hung out with. Many people who suffer from hearing loss have this exact same experience when they invest in their first pair of hearing aids.

How can getting your first pair of hearing aids compare to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why using hearing aids can help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

To show how efficiently your brain will react to change, consider this: You’re on the way to your job, taking the same way you always do. As you go to make the first left you find that the road is blocked. What would be your reaction to this blockage? Would you just give up and go home? Most likely not unless of course you’re trying to find a reason to avoid the office. Finding a different way to go is more than 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 your new routine.

The exact same process occurs in your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or otherwise not functioning. The brain reroutes its processing down new pathways, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or to learn new abilities like playing an instrument or developing healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging come to be automatic as physical changes inside the brain gradually adjust to match the new pathways. Although neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be equally as good at making you forget what you know.

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, The pathways inside of your brain will quickly begin to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to research 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 other functions like vision and touch. This reduces the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capability of understanding speech.

So, if you find yourself saying “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

As with most things, you get both a negative and positive angle to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the overall performance of hearing aids. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that regulate hearing loss, 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. Cognitive decline was minimized in people with 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, 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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

The most useful part of this study 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 stimulation it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Preserving a Young Brain

To put it briefly, the brain is versatile and can change itself significantly no matter what your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental deterioration and that simple hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.

Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can enhance your brain’s functionality regardless of your age is.

Hearing aids are a crucial part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for those with hearing loss. If you want to stay active and independent, invest in a pair of hearing aids. Don’t forget that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.

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