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

Do you recall when you got your first car? The feeling of independence was unprecedented. It was your choice when and where you went and with who you went with. Many people with loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they invest in their first hearing aids.

How could getting your first set 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. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s capacity to react to changes can be explained as follows: You’re on your way to your job, following the same way you always take. As you go to make the first turn you discover that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Is quitting and going back home an option? Unless of course you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, most likely not. More likely, you’ll take a different route. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If the new route ended up being more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.

When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the same thing. New pathways are forged in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or in learning new abilities like juggling or developing healthy habits. Tasks that were once-challenging become automatic as physical changes to the brain slowly adapt to match the new pathways. Even though neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new things, it can also be equally as good at causing you to you forget what you 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, researchers at the University of Colorado found that even in the early stages of hearing loss, when your brain stops working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.

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

So, if you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already started. In addition, it may be a more significant issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the neglected hearing loss has induced your brain structure to alter.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This talent of the brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your loss of hearing worse, but it also enhances the performance of hearing aids. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology because of the brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Because the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they encourage 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 discovered was that the rate 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 compared to those with normal hearing.

We already knew quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this study confirms that understanding: 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.”

Retaining a Young Brain

To put it briefly, the brain is powerful and can adapt itself substantially no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or reduce this decline.

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

To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for those with hearing loss. You can make sure that you remain active and independent by investing in hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!