Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

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 awesome was that sense of freedom? It was your choice when and where you went and with who you went with. For many people, 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? Although there are well known benefits to being able to hear better, there are some less obvious ones which can help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly affected by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

The following example demonstrates how your brain reacts to changes: Taking the same exact route as you always do, you leave for work. As you go to make that first right you discover that the road is blocked. How would you react? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Unless of course you’re searching for an excuse to not go to work, most likely not. Seeking out another way to go is most likely what you would choose to do. For as long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If this 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. The brain reroutes its processing along with alternative pathways, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or in learning new abilities like juggling or developing healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes inside the brain adjust to match the new paths and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new skills, it’s also just 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, scientists from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early stages of loss of hearing, if your brain quits working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you may not want it to be working on. The link between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.

When you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are decreased and so is your capacity to understand speech.

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

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This ability of the brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your hearing loss worse, but it also improves the overall performance of hearing aids. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can maximize the advanced technology inside of your ear. As 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 wearing 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, observed over three thousand adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. What the scientists found was that the speed of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, people that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

We already understood a lot about neuroplasticity and this research confirms that knowledge: the brain will organize functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulus it receives. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Having a Youthful Brain

It doesn’t matter what your age is, the versatility of the brain means it can modify itself at any point in time. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that this decline can be reduced or even averted 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, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being socially active, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance no matter what your age is.

Hearing aids are a vital part of guaranteeing your quality of life. People who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. You can be sure to stay active and independent by getting hearing aids. 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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