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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? Nothing can be compared to that feeling of freedom. You could go anywhere, anytime, with whoever you wanted. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.

How could getting your first set of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? It’s not just the obvious reasons for having hearing aids, but also the less obvious ones that can help you maintain your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

The following example illustrates exactly how your brain reacts to changes: Following the exact same route as you always do, you leave for work. Now, suppose you go to take a turn and you discover that the road is closed. How would you respond? Do you just give up and go home? Unless of course you’re searching for an excuse to not go to work, probably not. Finding another route is more than likely what you would choose to do. 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 substitute the old one with it.

The same thing happens in your brain when a “normal” function is blocked or else not functioning. The term neuroplasticity defines when the brain reroutes it’s processing along different pathways.

Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or in learning new skills such as juggling or developing healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging come to be automatic as physical modifications to the brain slowly adjust to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget about things you already know as it can be at helping you learn new skills.

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, The pathways in your brain will immediately begin to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to research conducted by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. The association between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease can be explained by this.

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

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

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This talent of your brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your hearing loss worse, but it also elevates the performance of hearing aids. You can really make the most of current hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. As the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that regulate loss of hearing, they stimulate mental growth and development.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was decreased 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, 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 study is that we can verify what we already understand about neuroplasticity: 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 gets and the need at hand.”

Maintaining a Young Brain

It doesn’t matter what your age is, the versatility of the brain means it can change itself at any time. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simply using hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.

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 issues by forcing yourself to complete challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness amongst other techniques.

To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for people with hearing loss. You can be sure to stay active and independent by getting hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep receiving stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!