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 feeling of freedom. It was your choice when and where you went and with who you went with. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.

How could investing in your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why having hearing aids can help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly impacted by loss of hearing.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s ability to respond to changes can be illustrated as follows: You’re on your way to your job, following the same route you always take. Now, what if you go to make a turn only to find that the road is closed. What is your reaction to this problem? Would you just quit and go back home? Most likely not unless you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid the office. More than likely, you’ll find an alternate route. If that new route happened to be even more efficient, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would come to be the new routine.

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

Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or to learn new abilities such as juggling or forming healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adjust to match the new pathways and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be helpful for learning new things, it’s also just as good at causing you to you forget what you already 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 from the University of Colorado found that even in the early development of hearing loss, when your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. This is something you might not want it to be working on. This reordering of your brain’s function explains the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decay.

If you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, such as vision or touch, can take over the less-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. This decreases the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.

So, if you are repeatedly asking people to speak up, loss of hearing has already started. Additionally, it could be a more significant problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the untreated hearing loss has induced your brain structure to change.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

As with most things, there is both a negative and positive side to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity may make your loss of hearing worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the advanced technology inside your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the brain associated with hearing loss.

The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was minimized in people who wear 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. 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 showed 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: the brain will organize functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulus it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Retaining a Youthful Brain

The bottom line is, the brain is powerful and can change itself substantially no matter what your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.

Hearing aids are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself with new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s performance regardless of your age.

Hearing aids are a vital part of ensuring your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for people with hearing loss. If you would like to remain active and independent, get 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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