It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. How amazing was that sense of independence? It was your decision when and where you went and with who you went with. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.
Why would getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? Although there are well known benefits to being able to hear better, there are some not-so-obvious benefits that help you keep your independent lifestyle. As it turns out, your hearing has a profound effect on your brain’s functionality.
Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be explained as follows: Taking the same route as you always do, you set off for work. Now, suppose you go to take a corner and you discover the road is blocked. What is your response to this blockage? Is giving up and going home a good decision? Unless you’re looking for an excuse to not go to work, probably not. You would most likely quickly find an alternate route. As long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new routine. If the new route turned out to be even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.
The exact same process occurs inside of your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not functioning. New pathways are forged in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or to learn new skills such as juggling or forming healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes to the brain adapt to correspond to the new pathways and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget about things you already know as it is at helping you learn new things.
Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing
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 get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study done by the University of Colorado. This is something you may not want it to be doing. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decline can be explained by this.
The parts of your brain that are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are decreased and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.
So, if you are repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves, hearing loss has already begun. And even more significant is the fact that your brain may already be starting to restructure.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This ability of your brain has a positive and a downside. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the overall performance of hearing aids. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can maximize the technology inside of your ear. Since the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that regulate loss of hearing, they stimulate mental growth and development.
The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that wearing a set of hearing aids reduced cognitive decline in people with hearing loss. 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 as compared to those with normal hearing.
The most useful part of this study is that we can confirm what we already understand about neuroplasticity: 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 receives and the need at hand.”
Having a Young Brain
The brain is powerful and can change itself at any time regardless of what your age is. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that simple hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.
Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance no matter what your age is.
To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. If you would like to remain active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. 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!