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

You will never forget getting your first car. The feeling of freedom was unprecedented. It was your decision when and where you went and with who you went with. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.

How can getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why using hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be explained as follows: You’re on your way to your job, following the same way you always take. You soon discover that there is an accident stopping you from going through. What would be your response to this problem? Would you just give up and go back home? Unless of course you’re searching for an excuse to not go to work, most likely not. More likely, you’ll use a different route. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If this new route ended up being even more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.

When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the exact same thing. The term neuroplasticity defines when the brain reroutes it’s processing along alternative pathways.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or in learning new abilities such as drawing or painting or developing healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes inside the brain adjust to match the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. While neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new things, it’s also 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 found that even in the early development of hearing loss, when your brain quits working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to change in that way. This reordering of your brain’s function clarifies the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease.

If you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources in your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to understand speech.

So, if you are repeatedly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already begun. What’s more, it may be a more significant issue than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to alter.

Can Hearing Aids Help

This talent of the brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the performance of hearing aids. You can definitely take advantage of current hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Because the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that regulate hearing loss, they encourage mental growth and development.

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 age 65 and older through a 25 year period. 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, people 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 research is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain arranges its functions according to the amount of stimulation it receives and the need at hand.”

Preserving a Young Brain

It doesn’t matter how old you are, 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 hasten mental deterioration and that simple hearing aids can stop or minimize this decline.

Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can improve your brain function despite any health issues by forcing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness among other strategies.

Hearing aids are an important part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Those who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure 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 remain as young as you feel!

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