Hearing Services of Nashville

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

Do you recall getting your first car? The feeling of independence was unprecedented. At any time you could call a few friends and go wherever you wanted. Many people with hearing loss have this same type of experience when they get their first pair of hearing aids.

How could getting your first pair of hearing aids be like getting your first car? It’s not only the well known reasons for having hearing aids, but also the subtle ones that can restore your independent lifestyle. As it turns out, your hearing has a powerful impact on your brain’s functionality.

Neuroplasticity

Your brain’s capacity to respond to changes can be explained as follows: You’re on the way to work, following the same route you always take. You soon find that there is an car accident stopping you from going through. How would you react? Is quitting and going home an option? Unless you’re searching for an excuse not to go to work, probably not. More likely, you’ll use an alternate route. If that new route was even quicker, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would become your new routine.

When a normal brain function is blocked, your brain does the exact same thing. The name neuroplasticity defines the brain’s process of rerouting along different pathways.

Learning new skills like playing an instrument, or learning a new language are achieved by neuroplasticity. It also assists in building healthy habits. Tasks that were once-challenging become automatic as physical changes inside the brain slowly adapt to match the new pathways. Even though neuroplasticity can be beneficial for learning new skills, it can also be equally as good at making you forget what you know.

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, scientists at the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early stages of hearing loss, if your brain stops working on processing sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. And it may not be ideal for them to change in that way. This reordering of your brain function clarifies the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline.

If you have hearing loss, the areas of your brain in charge of functions, including vision or touch, can solicit the less-utilized pathways of the brain responsible for hearing. This decreases the brain’s available resources for processing sound, and it weakens our capacity to understand speech.

So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” frequently, you already have loss of hearing. And even more important is the fact that your brain may already be beginning to restructure.

Can Hearing Aids Help

This talent of the brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity enhances the performance of your hearing aids even though it may possibly make your hearing loss worse. You can really make the most of current hearing aid technology because of the brain’s amazing ability to regenerate tissue and reroute neural pathways. Because the hearing aids stimulate 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 reduced 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 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 displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.

We already knew quite a bit about neuroplasticity and this research confirms that knowledge: 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 Youthful Brain

The brain is powerful and can adapt itself at any time regardless of what your age is. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can speed up mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even averted by using hearing aids.

Don’t dismiss your hearing aids as simple over-the-counter sound amplifiers. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, by pushing yourself to engage in new activities, being active socially, and maybe even practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s functionality no matter what your age.

Hearing aids are an important part of guaranteeing your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for those with hearing loss. If you would like to stay active and independent, get a pair of hearing aids. Don’t forget 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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