Do you remember when you got your first car? Nothing can be compared to that sense of freedom. At any time you could call a few friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people with loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they invest in their first pair of hearing aids.
How can getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? It’s not only the well known reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle benefits that can restore your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by hearing loss.
The following example demonstrates exactly how your brain responds to changes: You’re on the way to your job, taking the same route you always do. As you go to make that first left you discover that the road is blocked. How would you react? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Most likely not unless you’re looking for an excuse to avoid the office. More than likely, you’ll take a different route. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday routine. If this new route ended up being even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.
Inside your brain, when normal functions are not working the very same thing occurs. The brain sends its processing along with alternative paths, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.
Learning new skills like juggling, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes in the brain adjust to correspond to the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at causing you to forget about what you already know as it can be at helping you learn new skills.
Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing
Hearing loss is the perfect example of how neuroplasticity has a negative impact on your day-to-day life. As explained in The Hearing Review, scientists at the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early development of hearing loss, if your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. 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.
The parts of your brain that are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are diminished and so is your 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 might already be starting to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with anything, you get both a negative and positive side to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your loss of hearing worse, but it also improves the performance of hearing aids. You can really make the most of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the brain linked with loss of hearing.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was decreased 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, followed over three thousand adults age 65 and older through a 25 year period. What the scientists discovered was that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. 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.
We already knew quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this research confirms that knowledge: the brain will manage functions according to the current 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
In short, the brain is versatile and can adapt itself drastically regardless of your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function despite any health issues by pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new tasks, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. People who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you stay active and independent. Keep in mind that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.