You will never forget getting your first car. Nothing can compare to that sense of independence. You could go where you wanted, when you wanted, with who you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
How can getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? It’s not just the obvious reasons for having hearing aids, but also the less obvious ones that can restore your independent lifestyle. Come to find out, your hearing has a powerful effect on your brain’s functionality.
The following example demonstrates exactly how your brain responds to changes: You’re on the way to your job, following the same route you always do. You soon discover that there is an car accident stopping you from going through. What would be your reaction to this problem? Is giving up and going home an option? Unless you’re looking for a reason not to go to work, probably not. Seeking out a different way to go is most 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.
When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the same thing. New pathways are forged in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or to learn new skills such as drawing or painting or developing healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adapt to match the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget about things you already know as it can be at helping you learn new skills.
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 in your brain will quickly begin to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to a report done by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. The link between loss of hearing and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
When you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, like vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. This reduces the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capability of understanding speech.
So, if you are continuously asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already begun. What’s more, it might be a more significant problem than damage to your inner ear, it’s possible that the untreated hearing loss has induced your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with anything, there is both a negative and positive angle to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity improves the performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. Because your brain has the ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can get the most from the advanced technology inside your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of your brain linked with loss of hearing.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was lessened in people who wear 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 as compared to those with normal hearing.
The most useful part of this research is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Having a Young Brain
It doesn’t make a difference how old you are, the versatility of the brain means it can modify 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 prevent or minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are high-tech hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself with new activities, being socially active, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance regardless of your age.
Hearing aids are an important part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Those who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. Only by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can ensure that you stay active and independent. After all, you want your brain to continue receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!