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

Do you remember getting your first car? The feeling of independence was unparalleled. It was your decision when and where you went and with who you went with. Many people with hearing loss have this exact same experience when they get their first pair of hearing aids.

Why would getting your first pair of hearing aids be like getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why having hearing aids can help you make sure you don’t lose 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 way you always do. As you go to make the first right you discover that the road is blocked. How would you react? Do you just quit and go back home? Probably not unless of course you’re trying to find a reason to avoid going to work. More likely, you’ll find an alternate route. If that new route happened to be even more efficient, or if your regular route stayed closed for some time, the new route would become your new everyday routine.

In your brain, when normal functions are not working the same thing takes place. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along alternative pathways.

Learning new skills such as drawing or painting, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes to the brain adapt to correspond to the new pathways and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget what you already know as it can be at helping you learn new skills.

Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, scientists at the University of Colorado found that even in the early development of loss of hearing, when your brain stops working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. The connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decline can be explained by this.

The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. This decreases 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?” frequently, you already have hearing loss. Additionally, it could be a more significant issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s probable that the neglected loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to change.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This talent of your brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity enhances the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it might make your hearing loss worse. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology because of the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Since the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they encourage 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 over the age of 65. 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, people 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 understanding: the brain will organize functions according to your need and the amount of stimulation it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Preserving a Young Brain

In short, the brain is powerful and can adapt itself substantially no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that simple hearing aids prevent or at least reduce this decline.

Hearing aids are sophisticated 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 pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness amongst other techniques.

Hearing aids are a crucial part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. You can be sure to remain active and independent by investing in hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to keep experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds that you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!