Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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 independence was unprecedented. You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with who you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.

How could investing in your first set of hearing aids be like getting your first car? It’s not just the obvious reasons for having hearing aids, but also the less obvious factors that can help you maintain your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a significant effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s capacity to react to changes can be illustrated as follows: Following the same exact route as you always have, you set off for work. You soon discover that there is an accident stopping you from going through. What is your reaction to this problem? Is quitting and going home an option? Probably not unless you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid the office. You would most likely quickly seek a different way to go. For as long as your primary route was closed this new route would become your new everyday routine. If this new route ended up being even more efficient, you would substitute the old one with it.

When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the exact same thing. The brain sends its processing along with alternative paths, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.

Learning new skills like juggling, or learning a new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Gradually, the physical changes inside the brain adjust to correspond to the new pathways and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Even though neuroplasticity is usually helpful for learning new things, it can also be equally 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 your brain will immediately begin to be re-purposed if they quit processing sound according to a report done by the University of Colorado. This is something you might not want it to be doing. This reorganization of your brain function clarifies the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decrease.

The parts of your brain that are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for other functions such as vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to comprehend speech.

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

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

As with most things, you get both a negative and positive side to this astonishing ability. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your loss of hearing worse, but it also enhances the overall performance of hearing aids. You can definitely take advantage of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural paths. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of your brain linked with loss of hearing.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was lessened 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 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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.

The best part of this research is that we can verify what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will coordinate functions according to your need and the amount of stimulus it receives. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Retaining a Youthful Brain

It doesn’t make a difference how old you are, the adaptability of the brain means it can change itself at any point in time. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even averted by wearing hearing aids.

Hearing aids are not cheap over-the-counter amplification devices, they are high-tech hearing technology. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself with new activities, being active socially, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s functionality no matter what your age is.

Hearing aids are an essential part of ensuring your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for those with hearing loss. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you remain active and independent. After all, you want your brain to keep experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!

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