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 amazing was that feeling of freedom? You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with whoever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.

Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? Even though there are obvious benefits to being able to hear better, there are some not-so-obvious benefits that will help you maintain your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant impact on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

To illustrate how well your brain can react to change, consider this: Taking the exact same route as you always do, you leave for work. You soon find that there is an car accident stopping you from going through. How would you react? Is quitting and going back home a good decision? Most likely not unless you’re looking for a reason to avoid going to work. You would probably quickly seek an alternate way to go. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would come to be your new routine.

In your brain, when normal functions are not working the same thing occurs. The term neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along different pathways.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning new languages, or to learn new skills like drawing or painting or building healthy habits. Activities that were at one time challenging come to be automatic as physical changes to the brain gradually adjust to match the new pathways. While neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new things, it’s also equally as good at causing you to you forget what you know.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways inside your brain will immediately start to get re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. This reorganization of your brain function explains the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decay.

If you have loss of hearing, the areas of your brain in charge of functions, such as vision or touch, can take over the less-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources in your brain used to process sound are diminished 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 important is the reality 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 awesome ability. Neuroplasticity enhances the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may possibly cause your hearing loss to get worse. You can definitely take advantage of current hearing aid technology because of your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they encourage mental growth and development.

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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

The most useful part of this research is that we can confirm what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will coordinate functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Maintaining a Young Brain

The brain is versatile and can change itself at any time regardless of your age. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that this decline can be decreased or even averted by using hearing aids.

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

Hearing aids are a crucial part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for people with hearing loss. You can be sure to remain active and independent by investing in a pair of hearing aids. Keep in mind 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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