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

Remember when you got your very first car? Nothing can compare to that feeling of independence. At any moment you could reach out to a few friends and drive wherever you wanted. Many people who have loss of hearing have this same type of experience when they invest in their first hearing aids.

Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? It’s not just the well known reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle ones that can restore your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a powerful effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be explained with the following example: You’re on the way to your job, taking the same route you always do. You soon discover that there is an accident stopping you from going through. What is your reaction to this problem? Is quitting and going back home a good decision? Unless you’re looking for a reason not to go to work, most likely not. You would probably immediately find a different way to go. If that new route happened to be even more efficient, or if the primary route stayed closed for some time, the new route would become the new routine.

The exact same process takes place inside your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not working. Alternative pathways are routed in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning new languages, or in learning new skills such as playing an instrument or developing healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes inside the brain adjust to correspond to the new pathways and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new things, it can also be 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, The pathways inside your brain will quickly start to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. This is something you may not want it to be working on. This reordering of your brain’s function explains the link between loss of hearing and cognitive decline.

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

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

Can Hearing Aids Help You

As with anything, there is both a negative and positive angle to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity will probably make your loss of hearing worse, but it also elevates the performance of hearing aids. You can really take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of your brain associated with loss of hearing.

As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It found that wearing a set of hearing aids lessened 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, observed 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 most useful part of this research is that we can validate what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will manage functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Preserving a Young Brain

The brain is versatile and can adapt itself at any time regardless of your age. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by wearing hearing aids.

Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are sophisticated hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can improve your brain function despite any health issues by pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.

Hearing aids are an essential part of ensuring your quality of life. Those who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. You can make sure that you remain active and independent by getting a pair of hearing aids. 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!