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

Remember getting your first car? How great was that feeling of independence? You could go anywhere, anytime, with anyone you wanted. Many people who suffer from loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they invest in their first pair of hearing aids.

How can getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? It’s not just the obvious reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle factors that can help you maintain your independent lifestyle. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is greatly affected by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

The following example illustrates exactly how your brain responds to changes: Taking the identical route as you always have, you leave for work. Now, what if you go to take a turn only to discover that the road is blocked. What would be your reaction to this blockage? Is quitting and going back home a good decision? Probably not unless of course you’re looking for a reason to avoid going to work. You would most likely quickly seek a different way to go. If that new route was even more efficient, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would become the new everyday routine.

The same thing happens in your brain when a “normal” function is blocked or otherwise not functioning. The name neuroplasticity defines when the brain reroutes it’s processing along alternative pathways.

Mastering new abilities like playing an instrument, or learning a brand new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes in the brain adapt to match the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget what you already know as it can be at helping you learn new skills.

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 immediately begin to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to a report conducted by the University of Colorado. And it probably isn’t ideal for them to alter in that way. This reordering of your brain’s function explains the connection between loss of hearing and cognitive decrease.

The areas of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for other 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 are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, loss of hearing has already begun. And even more important is the fact that your brain might already be starting to restructure.

Can Hearing Aids Help

This talent of the brain has a positive and a downside. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it may make your hearing loss worse. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can get the most from the advanced technology inside your ear. As the hearing aids activate the parts of the brain that handle loss of hearing, 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 decreased in people who wear 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 age 65 and older over a 25 year period. What the scientists found was that the speed 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 a lot about neuroplasticity and this research 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.”

Preserving a Young Brain

In short, the brain is versatile and can adapt itself substantially regardless of your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental decline and that this decline can be reduced or even averted by using hearing aids.

Hearing aids are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself with new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can increase your brain’s performance regardless of your age.

To ensure your quality of life, hearing aids are a must. Those who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. If you want to remain 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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