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

Do you recall getting your first car? How awesome was that feeling of freedom? You could go where you wanted, when you wanted, with anyone you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.

Why would getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? Even though there are obvious benefits to hearing better, there are some less obvious ones which help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

The following example demonstrates how your brain reacts to changes: Taking the identical way as you always do, you set off for work. You soon find that there is an accident blocking your way. What would be your response to this problem? Is giving up and going home an option? Unless you’re looking for a reason to not go to work, probably not. More likely, you’ll use a different route. If that route happened to be even more efficient, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would become your new routine.

When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the exact same thing. The term neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning new languages, or in learning new abilities such as drawing or painting or forming healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes to the brain adapt to correspond to the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Although neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new things, it can also be just as good at causing you to you forget what you already know.

Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways inside your brain will quickly start to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. This reorganization of your brain function explains the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decrease.

If you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources in your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your ability to understand speech.

So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. Additionally, it may be a more substantial problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the untreated hearing loss has caused your brain structure to alter.

Can Hearing Aids Help You

As with most things, you get both a negative and positive side to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity enhances the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may make your hearing loss worse. You can definitely take advantage of current hearing aid technology because of your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that regulate loss of hearing, they stimulate mental growth and development.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 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 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 compared to those with normal hearing.

The best part of this research is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain arranges its functions according to the amount of stimulation it receives and the need at hand.”

Retaining a Young Brain

In short, the brain is powerful and can change itself drastically no matter what your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that simple hearing aids prevent or reduce this decline.

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

Hearing aids are a crucial part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. You can make sure that you remain active and independent by investing 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 keep processing sound and receiving stimulation.

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