Hearing Care Specialists - Hopkins, Glencoe, and Watertown, MN

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

Remember when you got your very first car? Nothing can be compared to that sense of independence. You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with who you wanted. Many people who suffer from loss of hearing have this exact same experience when they get their first pair of hearing aids.

How could getting your first set of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some less obvious reasons why wearing hearing aids can help you make sure you don’t lose your independence. As it turns out, your hearing has a profound effect on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

To demonstrate how well your brain can react to change, consider this: You’re on the way to work, taking the same way you always take. As you go to make that first right you discover that there is a road-block. How would you react? Is giving up and going home an option? Probably not unless you’re trying to find a reason to avoid the office. Finding a different way to go is more than likely what you would do. If that new route happened to be even quicker, or if the primary route remained restricted, the new route would come to be the new routine.

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

Learning new abilities like drawing or painting, or learning a new language are accomplished by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Activities that were at one time challenging become automatic as physical modifications to the brain gradually adapt to match the new pathways. While neuroplasticity is usually beneficial for learning new things, it can also be equally as good at making you forget what you already know.

Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity

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 start to get re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a report conducted by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to change in that way. The association between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.

When you have loss of hearing, the parts of your brain in charge of functions, such as vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. This diminishes the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.

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

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This ability of the brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity elevates the performance of your hearing aids even though it might cause your hearing loss to get worse. You can really make the most of advanced hearing aid technology thanks to the brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of the brain associated with loss of hearing.

The American Geriatrics Society published a long term study, in fact. 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 through a 25 year period. 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 showed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to those with normal hearing.

We already understood quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this research verifies that understanding: the brain will coordinate functions according to your need and the amount of stimulation it is given. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”

Preserving a Youthful Brain

It doesn’t make a difference what your age is, the adaptability of the brain means it can modify 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.

Don’t disregard your hearing aids as cheap over-the-counter sound amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by challenging yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s functionality no matter what your age.

Hearing aids are an essential part of guaranteeing your quality of life. People who have hearing loss may become withdrawn or isolated. If you want to stay active and independent, invest in a pair of hearing aids. Don’t forget 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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