Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

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

It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. Nothing can be compared to that sense of freedom. At any moment you could get in touch with some friends and drive wherever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.

How could investing in your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? It’s not only the obvious reasons for using hearing aids, but also the less obvious ones that can restore your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

To illustrate how efficiently your brain can react to change, consider this: You’re on your way to your job, following the same route you always do. As you go to make the first right you find that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Is giving up and going back home an option? Most likely not unless you’re trying to find a reason to avoid the office. Seeking out a different way to go is more than likely what you would do. 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 replace the old one with it.

In your brain, when normal functions are blocked the same thing takes place. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along different pathways.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or to learn new abilities such as drawing or painting or developing healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications inside the brain gradually adjust to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget about things you already know as it can be at assisting you in learning new skills.

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, The pathways inside of your brain will quickly begin to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study conducted by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to change in that way. This reorganization of your brain’s function clarifies the link between hearing loss and cognitive decay.

The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for other functions like vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your ability to understand speech.

So, if you are continuously asking people to repeat themselves, hearing loss has already started. And even more significant is the fact that your brain may already be beginning to restructure.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

As with anything, you get both a negative and positive angle to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. You can really make the most of advanced hearing aid technology because of the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. As the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that regulate hearing loss, they stimulate mental growth and development.

The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was reduced 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, observed over three thousand adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. What the scientists 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 showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

We already understood a lot about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulation it receives. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Retaining a Young Brain

The bottom line is, the brain is powerful and can change itself significantly no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or reduce this decline.

Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as cheap over-the-counter sound amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can enhance your brain’s functionality no matter what your age.

Hearing aids are an essential part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Those who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. If you would like to stay active and independent, invest 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 continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.

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