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

Do you recall getting your first car? Nothing can compare to that feeling 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 lot like that feeling.

Why would getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? While there are obvious benefits to hearing better, there are some less obvious benefits that can help you keep your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

The following example illustrates how your brain reacts to changes: Taking the identical way as you always do, you leave for work. You soon find that there is an accident blocking your way. How would you react? Is quitting and going home a good decision? Unless of course you’re looking for a reason to not go to work, probably not. You would most likely quickly seek a different route. If that route was even more efficient, or if the primary route stayed closed for some time, the new route would come to be the new routine.

The same thing occurs inside of your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or otherwise not functioning. Alternative pathways are forged in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Learning new skills such as juggling, or learning a brand new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes to the brain adapt to correspond to the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Although neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be just as good at causing you to you forget what you already know.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways inside of your brain will quickly start to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to change in that way. This reordering of your brain function clarifies the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease.

The parts of your brain which are responsible for hearing will be re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are decreased and so is your ability to understand speech.

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

Can Hearing Aids Help

As with anything, there is both a negative and positive side to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity enhances the performance of your hearing aids even though it might make your hearing loss worse. You can definitely make the most of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. As the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that regulate loss of hearing, they stimulate mental growth and development.

The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. Cognitive decline was reduced in people with 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, followed over three thousand adults over the age of 65. 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 compared to those with normal hearing.

We already understood quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that knowledge: the brain will manage 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.”

Maintaining a Young Brain

The brain is powerful and can change itself at any time regardless of your age. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can speed up mental decline and that this decline can be decreased or even averted by wearing hearing aids.

Hearing aids are state-of-the-art hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function despite any health issues by pushing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.

Hearing aids are a crucial part of ensuring your quality of life. Those who have hearing loss often become withdrawn or isolated. If you want to stay active and independent, invest in a pair of 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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