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. Nothing can be compared to that feeling of independence. 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.

Why would getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? Even though there are obvious benefits to being able to hear better, there are some less obvious ones that will help you keep your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly impacted by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

To show how efficiently your brain will react to change, consider this: You’re on the way to your job, taking the same way you always do. Now, what if you go to take a turn only to discover that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Is giving up and going home an option? Probably not unless of course you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid the office. Finding a different way to go is most likely what you would do. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If this new route turned out to be even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.

When a normal brain function is stopped, your brain does the exact same thing. The brain reroutes its processing down new pathways, and this re-routing process is defined as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can help you master new languages, or to learn new abilities like playing an instrument or forming healthy habits. Activities that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications to the brain gradually adapt to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at causing you to forget about what you already know as it can be at helping you learn new things.

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, The pathways inside your brain will quickly start to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to research conducted by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. The association between loss of hearing and cognitive decay can be explained by this.

When you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain responsible for functions, such as vision or touch, can take over the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. The available resources inside your brain which are used to process sound are lessened and so is your ability to comprehend speech.

So, if you are continuously asking people to speak up, hearing loss has already started. And even more important is the fact that your brain might already be starting to restructure.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

As with most things, there is both a negative and positive angle to this awesome ability. Neuroplasticity enhances the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may possibly make your hearing loss worse. You can really take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology because of your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Because the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they encourage mental growth and development.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was lessened 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, observed over three thousand adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. The study showed that people with hearing loss had a higher rate of cognitive decline. 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.

The most useful part of this research is that we can verify what we already understand about neuroplasticity: 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.”

Maintaining a Young Brain

In short, the brain is versatile and can adapt itself significantly no matter what your age or stage in life. It’s also important to note that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that simply using hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.

Hearing aids are not simple over-the-counter sound amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing enhancement technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can improve your brain function regardless of any health conditions by forcing yourself to perform challenging new activities, being socially active, and practicing mindfulness amongst other strategies.

Hearing aids are an important part of ensuring your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is a common problem for people with hearing loss. Only by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you stay active and independent. 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.