Cedar Audiology Associates - Cleveland, OH

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 compare to that sense of independence. At any moment you could call some friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people with loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they get their first hearing aids.

How could investing in your first pair of hearing aids be similar 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. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by loss of hearing.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s ability to respond to changes can be illustrated with the following example: You’re on the way to your job, following the same route you always do. Now, suppose you go to take a turn only to discover that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Most likely not unless you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid going to work. Seeking out a different route 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 this new route turned out to be more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.

When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the same thing. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.

Perfecting new skills such as juggling, or learning a brand new language are carried out by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Activities that were once-challenging become automatic as physical changes inside the brain slowly adjust to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at making you forget about things you already know as it is at helping you learn new skills.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

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 discovered that even in the early stages of hearing loss, if your brain stops working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you may not want it to be doing. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decline can be explained by this.

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 inside your brain which are used to process sound are diminished and so is your capacity to understand speech.

So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. In addition, it might be a more substantial issue than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated hearing loss has induced your brain structure to change.

Can Hearing Aids Help You

This ability of your brain has an upside and a negative. Neuroplasticity will probably make your hearing loss worse, but it also enhances the overall performance of hearing aids. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the advanced technology in your ear. As the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they encourage mental growth and development.

As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 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, 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 understanding: 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.”

Preserving a Youthful Brain

The brain is versatile and can change itself at any time regardless of how old you are. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental deterioration and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by using hearing aids.

Hearing aids are high-tech hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can enhance your brain function despite any health conditions by pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.

Hearing aids are an important part of ensuring your quality of life. Those who have hearing loss often become withdrawn or isolated. You can be sure to stay active and independent by getting a pair of hearing aids. Don’t forget 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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