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

Do you recall when you got your first car? How great was that sense of freedom? At any moment you could get in touch with some friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people with hearing loss have this same type of experience when they get their first pair of hearing aids.

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. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly affected by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

The following example illustrates how your brain reacts to changes: Following the identical way as you always do, you set off for work. Now, what if you go to make a turn and you find the road is blocked. What is your response to this problem? Do you quit and go back home? Unless of course you’re looking for a reason not to go to work, most likely not. Seeking out a different route is most likely what you would choose to do. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would become the new everyday routine.

When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the exact same thing. Alternative pathways are forged in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Learning new abilities like drawing or painting, or learning a brand new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes inside the brain adapt to match the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget about what you already know as it is at helping you learn new things.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

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 from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early phases of loss of hearing, if your brain quits working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to change in that way. This reorganization of your brain function explains the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decay.

The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get 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 ability to comprehend speech.

So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. What’s more, it could be a more significant problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected hearing loss has induced your brain structure to alter.

Can Hearing Aids Help

This ability of your brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity enhances the performance of your hearing aids even though it may possibly make your hearing loss worse. You can really take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology because of your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Since the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle 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 decreased 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. What the researchers discovered was that the speed 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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.

We already understood a lot about neuroplasticity and this study confirms that knowledge: 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 Youthful Brain

It doesn’t matter how old you are, the adaptability 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 decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or minimize this decline.

Hearing aids are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself with new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance regardless of your age.

Hearing aids are a crucial part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. If you would like to remain 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 keep processing sound and receiving stimulation.

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