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

You will never forget getting your first car. The feeling of freedom was unprecedented. It was your decision when and where you went and with who you went with. Many people who have hearing loss have this same type of experience when they get their first hearing aids.

Why would getting your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? Although there are obvious advantages to hearing better, there are some not-so-obvious ones which will help you keep your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is profoundly affected by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

To illustrate how efficiently your brain will respond to change, think about this: Following the exact same route as you always do, you leave for work. You soon find that there is an car accident stopping you from going through. What would be your response to this problem? Would you quit and go back home? Probably not unless you’re trying to find a reason to avoid the office. You would most likely quickly seek a different route. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if your regular route stayed closed for some time, the new route would become the new routine.

In your brain, when normal functions are blocked the same thing takes place. Brand new pathways are routed in the brain due to a function defined as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or to learn new abilities such as martial arts or developing healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adjust to match the new pathways and once-challenging tasks become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget things you already know as it can be at assisting you in learning new things.

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, The pathways in your brain will immediately begin to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a study done by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to change in that way. This reorganization of your brain function clarifies the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decline.

The parts of your brain that are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for different functions such as vision and touch. This lessens the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capability of understanding speech.

So, if you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already started. What’s more, it might be a more significant issue than damage to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to change.

Can Hearing Aids Help

This talent of your brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it may cause your hearing loss to get worse. You can really make the most of advanced hearing aid technology because of the brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Because the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that regulate loss of hearing, they encourage 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, followed over three thousand adults over the age of 65. What the scientists discovered was that the rate 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 knew quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: if you don’t use it you will end up losing it because the brain organizes its functions according to the amount of stimulation it receives and the need at hand.”

Having a Youthful Brain

The brain is powerful and can change itself at any time regardless of how old you are. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental decline and that simple hearing aids can stop or reduce this decline.

Don’t disregard your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s performance no matter what your age is.

To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Those who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you remain active and independent. Don’t forget that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to keep processing sound and receiving stimulation.