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

Do you remember when you got your first car? How amazing was that feeling of freedom? It was your choice when and where you went and with who you went with. Many people who suffer from loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they get their first hearing aids.

Why would investing in your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why wearing hearing aids will help you keep your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s ability to respond to changes can be explained with the following example: You’re on the way to work, following the same route you always do. As you go to make that first left you find that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Do you just quit and go home? Unless you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, probably not. You would most likely quickly find an alternate way to go. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new everyday routine. If the new route turned out to be even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.

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

Learning new skills like playing an instrument, or learning a new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Activities that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications inside the brain slowly adapt to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at causing you to forget things you already know as it can be at assisting you in learning new things.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, scientists from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early stages of loss of hearing, when 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 association between loss of hearing and cognitive decay can be explained by this.

When you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain responsible for functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. 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 are continuously asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already begun. And even more significant is the fact that your brain might already be beginning to restructure.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This ability of your brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can maximize the technology inside your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by exciting the parts of your brain associated with hearing loss.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was minimized 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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

We already knew a lot about neuroplasticity and this research confirms that knowledge: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain organizes its functions according to the amount of stimulation it gets and the need at hand.”

Having a Youthful Brain

It doesn’t make a difference what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means that it can change itself at any time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.

Don’t disregard your hearing aids as cheap over-the-counter sound amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can enhance your brain function despite any health issues by pushing yourself to complete challenging new tasks, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.

To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Those who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. If you would like to stay active and independent, invest in a pair of hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!

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