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

Remember when you got your very first car? The feeling of freedom was unparalleled. You could go where you wanted, anytime, with whoever you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.

Why would investing in your first pair of hearing aids be like getting your first car? While there are well known benefits to being able to hear better, there are some not-so-obvious benefits that will help you maintain your independence. Come to find out, your hearing has a profound effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

The following example illustrates how your brain responds to changes: You’re on the way to your job, following the same route you always do. Now, suppose you go to make a corner only to find the road is closed. What would be your response to this blockage? Is giving up and going back home a good decision? Unless of course you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, most likely not. You would most likely immediately seek a different way to go. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new routine. If the new route ended up being even more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.

The exact same process occurs in your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or otherwise not working. The brain reroutes its processing along with alternative pathways, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.

Mastering new skills like playing an instrument, or learning a brand new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Activities that were once-challenging become automatic as physical modifications inside the brain gradually adapt to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at causing you to forget about things you already know as it can be at helping you learn new things.

Neuroplasticity And Loss of Hearing

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 quickly begin to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to research done by the University of Colorado. This is something you might not want it to be working on. This reordering of your brain function explains the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decay.

When you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, like vision or touch, can take over the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This diminishes the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it impairs our capacity to understand speech.

So, if you are repeatedly asking people to speak up, loss of hearing has already begun. And even more significant is the reality that your brain may already be starting to restructure.

Can Hearing Aids Help

As with anything, there is both a negative and positive angle to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity may make your loss of hearing worse, but it also elevates the overall performance of hearing aids. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. As the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, they stimulate mental growth and development.

The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. It found that having a set of hearing aids lessened 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, participants that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.

We already knew quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this study verifies that understanding: 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.”

Retaining a Young Brain

The brain is powerful and can adapt itself at any time regardless of what your age is. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can hasten mental deterioration and that simply using hearing aids can stop or at least reduce this decline.

Don’t disregard your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself with new activities, being socially active, 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. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. If you want to stay active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. Keep in mind that if you want your brain to stay as young as you feel it needs to continue processing sound and receiving stimulation.

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