HEARING TIPS

If You Have Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids Will Restore Your Independence

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. How amazing was that sense of independence? It was your choice when and where you went and with who you hung out with. Many people who suffer from loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they get their first pair of hearing aids.

Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? While there are obvious benefits to hearing better, there are some less obvious ones which will help you maintain your independent lifestyle. As it turns out, your hearing has a powerful effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be illustrated as follows: Taking the same way as you always have, you leave for work. Now, what if you go to take a corner and you discover the road is blocked. How would you react? Is quitting and going back home an option? Unless of course you’re looking for an excuse not to go to work, most likely not. Seeking out another way to go is more than likely what you would choose to do. If that new route happened to be even more efficient, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would come to be your new everyday routine.

The exact same thing occurs inside your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or otherwise not working. The brain reroutes its processing along with new pathways, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or in learning new abilities such as juggling or building healthy habits. Tasks that were once-challenging become automatic as physical changes to the brain slowly adapt to match the new pathways. Although neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new things, it can also be just as good at making you forget what you know.

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, researchers at the University of Colorado found that even in the early phases of hearing loss, if your brain stops working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. This is something you might not want it to be working on. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decline can be explained by this.

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

So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. Additionally, it could be a more significant problem than injury to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected hearing loss has caused your brain structure to change.

Can Hearing Aids Help You

This ability of your brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity may 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 your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Because the hearing aids activate 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. 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 age 65 and older over 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, 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 a lot about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it is given. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Retaining a Young Brain

It doesn’t matter how old you are, the versatility of the brain means that it can change itself at any point in time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that simple hearing aids prevent or reduce this decline.

Hearing aids are state-of-the-art hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can improve your brain function despite any health conditions by forcing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness among other strategies.

Hearing aids are a vital part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for people with hearing loss. Only by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you stay active and independent. Keep in mind 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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