Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

Remember when you got your very first car? How awesome was that feeling of independence? It was your decision when and where you went and with who you went with. For many, getting their first hearing aids is a similar experience.

Why would getting your first hearing aids be compared to getting your first car? Although there are well known benefits to hearing better, there are some less obvious ones which will help you maintain your independent lifestyle. Come to find out, your hearing has a profound impact on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

To demonstrate how well your brain can react to change, consider this: Following the exact same route as you always have, you leave for work. As you go to make the first left you discover that the road is blocked. How would you respond? Do you give up and go home? Most likely not unless of course you’re trying to find an excuse to avoid the office. More likely, you’ll use an alternate route. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would turn into your new routine. If the new route ended up being even more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.

The exact same thing takes place inside your brain when a “normal” function is stopped or else not functioning. Alternative pathways are routed in the brain due to a function called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity can assist you in learning a new language, or in learning new abilities like martial arts or building healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging come to be automatic as physical modifications inside the brain slowly adapt to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget what you already know as it is 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 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. This is something you may not want it to be doing. This reordering of your brain’s function clarifies the relationship between loss of hearing and cognitive decline.

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

So, if you are constantly asking people to repeat themselves, hearing loss has already started. What’s more, it may be a more substantial issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s possible that the neglected loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to alter.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This ability of your brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity improves the overall performance of your hearing aids even though it may possibly make your hearing loss worse. Because your brain has the talent of regenerating tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the technology as part of your ear. 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 decreased 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 age 65 and older over a 25 year period. What the researchers found was that the rate of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. 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 best part of this research is that we can confirm what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will organize functions according to the current need and the amount of stimulus it is given. To put it another way, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Maintaining a Young Brain

In short, the brain is powerful and can change itself drastically regardless of your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that simply using hearing aids can stop or reduce this decline.

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

Hearing aids are a vital part of ensuring your quality of life. People who have loss of hearing often become withdrawn or isolated. 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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