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

You will never forget getting your first car. Nothing can compare to that feeling of independence. You could go where you wanted, anytime, with who you wanted. Many people who have loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they get their first hearing aids.

How could investing in your first set of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why having hearing aids can help you keep your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

To show how efficiently your brain can respond to change, think about this: You’re on the way to work, following the same way you always do. As you go to make that first right you find that there is a road-block. What is your reaction to this problem? Do you just give up and go back home? Probably not unless you’re looking for an excuse to avoid the office. Finding another way to go is most likely what you would choose to do. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new everyday routine. If this new route turned out to be more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.

When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the same thing. The brain sends its processing down new paths, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.

Learning new skills like drawing or painting, or learning a brand new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Activities that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications to the brain gradually adjust to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget what you already know as it is at assisting you in learning new skills.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways in your brain will quickly start to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study done by the University of Colorado. This is something you may not want it to be doing. This reordering of your brain’s function clarifies the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease.

The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. This decreases the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.

So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. And even more significant is the fact that your brain may already be starting to restructure.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

As with anything, there is both a negative and positive side to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your hearing loss worse, but it also enhances the performance of hearing aids. Thanks to your brain’s talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can maximize the technology inside your ear. Since the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they encourage mental growth and development.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was reduced 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, followed over three thousand adults over the age of 65. What the scientists 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 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: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain organizes its functions according to the amount of stimulation it gets and the need at hand.”

Preserving a Young Brain

It doesn’t make a difference what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means that it can modify itself at any time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by wearing hearing aids.

Hearing aids are not cheap over-the-counter amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function regardless of any health issues by forcing yourself to accomplish challenging new tasks, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness amongst other techniques.

Hearing aids are an essential part of ensuring your quality of life. People who have hearing loss often become withdrawn or isolated. If you want to stay active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. Keep in mind that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to keep processing sound and receiving stimulation.

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