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? How amazing was that feeling of freedom? You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with anyone you wanted. Many people who suffer from loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they invest in their first pair of hearing aids.

Why would getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why using hearing aids will help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a powerful effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

The following example demonstrates exactly how your brain responds to changes: You’re on your way to work, following the same way you always do. You soon discover that there is an accident stopping you from going through. How would you respond? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to not go to work, probably not. You would probably immediately find a different route. As long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new routine. If this new route ended up being more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.

The exact same thing occurs inside of your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not functioning. The term neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.

Perfecting new skills such as drawing or painting, or learning a new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Tasks that were once-challenging come to be automatic as physical changes inside the brain slowly adjust to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at making you forget what you already know as it can be at helping you learn new things.

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, researchers from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early development of loss of hearing, if your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for something else. And it may not be ideal for them to change in that way. This reordering of your brain’s function explains the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decay.

When you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, such as vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources in your brain used to process sound are diminished and so is your ability to comprehend speech.

So, if you find yourself saying “what was that?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. And even more significant is the fact that your brain may already be beginning to restructure.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

As with most things, you get both a negative and positive angle to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity may make your loss of hearing worse, but it also elevates the overall performance of hearing aids. You can definitely make the most of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the brain linked with hearing loss.

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, followed over three thousand adults over the age of 65. What the scientists found 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 as compared to those with normal hearing.

The most useful part of this study is that we can confirm what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will coordinate 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.”

Maintaining a Young Brain

It doesn’t matter what your age is, the versatility of the brain means that it can modify itself at any point in time. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can hasten mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by using hearing aids.

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

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