Center for Hearing - Sarasota, FL

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 awesome was that feeling of independence? At any moment you could get in touch with a few friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people who suffer from hearing loss have this same type of experience when they get their first hearing aids.

Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why wearing hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s ability to respond to changes can be illustrated with the following example: You’re on the way to work, following the same route you always take. As you go to make that first right you discover that there is a road-block. What is your response to this blockage? Is giving up and going home an option? Most likely not unless you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid the office. You would most likely immediately find an alternate way to go. For 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 substitute the old one with it.

When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the exact same thing. The brain reroutes its processing along with alternative paths, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or in learning new skills such as playing an instrument or forming healthy habits. Slowly, the physical changes in the brain adapt to match the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be helpful for learning new things, it’s also just as good at making you forget what you know.

Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing

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 found that even in the early phases of hearing loss, if your brain quits working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. And it may not be ideal for them to change in that way. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.

The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. This lessens the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capability of understanding speech.

So, if you are continuously asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already begun. What’s more, it might be a more significant problem than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated hearing loss has caused your brain structure to alter.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This talent of the brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity improves the performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can get the most from the technology inside your ear. Because the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they stimulate mental growth and development.

The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that having a set of hearing aids decreased 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. What the researchers found 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.

The best part of this study is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulation it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Preserving a Young Brain

In short, the brain is powerful and can adapt itself drastically no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten 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, you can increase your brain function regardless of any health issues by pushing yourself to perform challenging new tasks, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness among other strategies.

To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. Those who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. Only by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can ensure that you remain active and independent. 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!

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