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

Remember getting your very first car? Nothing can compare to that feeling of independence. You could go anywhere, when you wanted, with anyone you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.

How could investing in your first pair of hearing aids be similar to getting your first car? There are some subtle reasons why using hearing aids can help you keep your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by hearing loss.

Neuroplasticity

To reveal how well your brain will react to change, think about this: Following the identical route as you always do, you set off for work. As you go to make the first right you discover that there is a road-block. How would you react? Is giving up and going home an option? Unless of course you’re searching for a reason not to go to work, most likely not. More likely, you’ll take an alternate route. As long as your regular route was closed this new route would become your new routine. If this new route ended up being more efficient, you would replace the old one with it.

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

Perfecting new abilities such as playing an instrument, or learning a brand new language are carried out by neuroplasticity. It also helps you build healthy habits. Tasks that were at one time challenging come to be automatic as physical changes inside the brain slowly adapt to match the new pathways. Neuroplasticity can be just as good at making you forget things you already know as it can be at helping you learn new skills.

How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to Hearing Loss?

A perfect example of how neuroplasticity can have a negative impact is hearing loss. As explained in The Hearing Review, scientists from the University of Colorado discovered that even in the early phases of loss of hearing, when your brain stops working to process sounds, it will be re-purposed for other tasks. This is something you might not want it to be working on. The association between loss of hearing and cognitive decline can be explained by this.

When you have hearing loss, the parts of your brain responsible for functions, such as vision or touch, can solicit the under-utilized areas of the brain responsible for hearing. This lessens 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?” regularly, you already have loss of hearing. And even more significant is the fact that your brain might already be starting to restructure.

How Hearing Aids Can Help You

This talent of your brain has an upside and a downside. Neuroplasticity may possibly make your loss of hearing worse, but it also enhances the performance of hearing aids. Because your brain has the ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural pathways, you can maximize the technology as part of your ear. As the hearing aids stimulate the parts of the brain that handle hearing loss, they encourage mental growth and development.

In fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It found that wearing a set of hearing aids reduced cognitive decline in people with hearing loss. 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. 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, people 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.

The best part of this research is that we can confirm what we already understand about neuroplasticity: 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.”

Maintaining a Youthful Brain

It doesn’t matter 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 simple hearing aids can stop or at least minimize this decline.

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 with new activities, being socially active, and perhaps practicing mindfulness you can help improve your brain’s performance no matter what your age is.

Hearing aids are a vital part of ensuring your quality of life. Becoming isolated and withdrawn is common for people with hearing loss. You can be sure to remain active and independent by investing in hearing aids. After all, you want your brain to continue experiencing stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will stay as young as you feel!