It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. The feeling of freedom was unparalleled. It was your decision when and where you went and with who you hung out with. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
How could investing in your first set of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why using hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.
The following example demonstrates exactly how your brain reacts to changes: Following the exact same way as you always do, you leave for work. As you go to make that first turn you find that there is a road-block. How would you respond? Is giving up and going back home an option? Most likely not unless you’re trying to find a reason to avoid going to work. Finding another way to go is more than likely what you would choose to do. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday routine. If the new route ended up being even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.
When a normal brain function is blocked, 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 a new language, or in learning new skills like juggling or building healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes inside the brain adjust to correspond to the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be equally as good at making you forget what you already know.
How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to Hearing Loss?
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 phases of hearing loss, if your brain stops working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. This reorganization of your brain’s function clarifies the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decline.
If you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain responsible for functions, like vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This decreases the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. And even more important is the fact that your brain might already be starting to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
As with most things, you get both a negative and positive angle to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity elevates the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can make the most of the technology in your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of your brain associated with hearing loss.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was lessened 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. 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.
We already knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that understanding: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it is given. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Maintaining a Young Brain
It doesn’t matter what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means it can change itself at any point in time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are state-of-the-art hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance regardless of your age is.
Hearing aids are an essential part of guaranteeing your quality of life. People who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. You can be sure to stay active and independent by investing in a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!